Sabrina Fair

I’ve always been curious about this poem. I love the artwork and play/films it has inspired, but I confess that the classic-ness of the poem eludes me. Maybe it’s because it’s John Milton – I’ve never been able to really enjoy him.

This poem is nice, and pleasant to read, but it doesn’t stir my heart and wrench my gut like most classic poetry. But I wanted to share it, just to see if, by investing in it, I can appreciate it the way Arthur Rackham clearly did. Enjoy his gorgeous illustrations!


Sweet Echo, sweetest Nymph that livst unseen
Within thy airy shell
By slow Meander’s margent green,
And in the violet imbroider’d vale
Where the love-lorn Nightingale
Nightly to thee her sad Song mourneth well.
Canst thou not tell me of a gentle Pair
That likest thy Narcissus are?
O if thou have
Hid them in som flowry Cave,
Tell me but where
Sweet Queen of Parly, Daughter of the Sphear,
So maist thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all Heavns Harmonies


Sabrina fair
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassie, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of Lillies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,
Listen for dear honour’s sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save.


Listen and appear to us
In name of great Oceanus,
By the earth-shaking Neptune’s mace,
And Tethys grave majestick pace,
By hoary Nereus wrincled look,
And the Carpathian wisards hook,
By scaly Tritons winding shell,
And old sooth-saying Glaucus spell,
By Leucothea’s lovely hands,
And her son that rules the strands,
By Thetis tinsel-slipper’d feet,
And the Songs of Sirens sweet,
By dead Parthenope’s dear tomb,
And fair Ligea’s golden comb,
Wherwith she sits on diamond rocks
Sleeking her soft alluring locks,
By all the Nymphs that nightly dance
Upon thy streams with wily glance,


Rise, rise, and heave thy rosie head
From thy coral-pav’n bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answered have.
Listen and save.


Sabrina rises, attended by water-Nymphes, and sings.


By the rushy-fringed bank,
Where grows the Willow and the Osier dank,
My sliding Chariot stayes,
Thick set with Agat, and the azurn sheen
Of Turkis blew, and Emrauld green
That in the channell strayes, 
Whilst from off the waters fleet
Thus I set my printless feet
O’re the Cowslips Velvet head,
That bends not as I tread,
Gentle swain at thy request
I am here.

Spirit. Goddess dear

We implore thy powerful band

To’ undo the charmed band

Of true Virgin here distrest,

Through the force, and through the wile

Of unblest inchanter vile.

Sabrina Shepherd, ’tis my office best

To help insnared chastity.


Brightest Lady look on me,
Thus I sprinkle on thy brest
Drops that from my fountain pure,
I have kept of pretious cure,
Thrice upon thy fingers tip
Thrice upon thy rubied lip,
Next this marble venom’d seat
Smear’d with gumms of glutenous heat
I touch with chaste palms moist and cold,
Now the spell hath lost his hold;
And I must haste ere morning hour
To wait in Amphitrite’s bowr.

Source Text

Gorgeous Illustrations all done by Arthur Rackham


The Seven Swans

So…there is NO fairy tale called The Seven Swans, although I’ve often referred to it by accident. Turns out, there are several different fairy tales that include the words ‘seven’ and ‘swans’, and are all much the same story: “The Seven Ravens,” “The Six Swans,” and “The Wild (or Eleven) Swans.” There’s also the story “The Children of Lir,” which has a plot similar to the others. And the more I dig, the more I find! The Twelve Brothers/ The Twelve Ravens by Grimm, and The Seven Ravens by Ludwig Bechstein, are both another retelling. There seem to be more versions of this tale than of Snow White!

I’m going to call this post The Seven Swans, as a nod to all the similarities between the stories.

1. “The Wild Swans,” by Hans Christian Anderson, is majestic and ornate. By far my absolute favorite! It’s full of trusting tenderness and wicked guile. And Anderson’s descriptions are gorgeous!


2. “The Seven Ravens,” by Grimm, is short, with a lurid tone. A regular Halloween tale.


3. “The Six Swans,” also by Grimm but translated and republished by Andrew Lang, was clearly the one that most inspired Anderson in his retelling. But it is a little darker than his, as all the Grimm tales are.


The Children of Lir, an Irish Fable, is a short one, and far sadder than any of the others!

5. The Twelve Brothers surprised me! I thought the Twelve Ravens was my last one to compile until I found this hidden gem!


6. The Twelve Ravens has a twist at the end that I like, but some confusing plot twists!

7. The Seven Ravens retold by Ludwig Bechstein, is my favorite of the Ravens!


A Cinderella with a Sense of Humor: The Little Glass Slipper

This is Charles Perrault’s brilliant “Cinderella,” as translated by Andrew Lang in his famous Blue Fairy Book, matched mostly with the original, gorgeously delicate illustrations of Henry Justice Ford.

I LOVE Cinderella! As probably my favorite fairy tale of all time, it’s fitting that this is the first I completed in this slideshow series. What other fairy tales would you like to see, and what versions of those tales? Do you know of any obscure fairy tales or illustrators? Let me know in the comments!



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Henry J Ford’s Illustrations for “The Little Glass Slipper:”




Original Text for “The Little Glass Slipper”

Once there was a gentleman who married, for his second wife, the proudest and most haughty woman that was ever seen. She had, by a former husband, two daughters of her own humor, who were, indeed, exactly like her in all things. He had likewise, by another wife, a young daughter, but of unparalleled goodness and sweetness of temper, which she took from her mother, who was the best creature in the world.

No sooner were the ceremonies of the wedding over but the mother-in-law began to show herself in her true colors. She could not bear the good qualities of this pretty girl, and the less because they made her own daughters appear the more odious. She employed her in the meanest work of the house: she scoured the dishes, tables, etc., and scrubbed madam’s chamber, and those of misses, her daughters; she lay up in a sorry garret, upon a wretched straw bed, while her sisters lay in fine rooms, with floors all inlaid, upon beds of the very newest fashion, and where they had looking-glasses so large that they might see themselves at their full length from head to foot.

The poor girl bore all patiently, and dared not tell her father, who would have rattled her off; for his wife governed him entirely. When she had done her work, she used to go into the chimney-corner, and sit down among cinders and ashes, which made her commonly be called Cinderwench; but the youngest, who was not so rude and uncivil as the eldest, called her Cinderella. However, Cinderella, notwithstanding her mean apparel, was a hundred times handsomer than her sisters, though they were always dressed very richly.

It happened that the King’s son gave a ball, and invited all persons of fashion to it. Our young misses were also invited, for they cut a very grand figure among the quality. They were mightily delighted at this invitation, and wonderfully busy in choosing out such gowns, petticoats, and head-clothes as might become them. This was a new trouble to Cinderella; for it was she who ironed her sisters’ linen, and plaited their ruffles; they talked all day long of nothing but how they should be dressed.

“For my part,” said the eldest, “I will wear my red velvet suit with French trimming.”

“And I,” said the youngest, “shall have my usual petticoat; but then, to make amends for that, I will put on my gold-flowered manteau, and my diamond stomacher, which is far from being the most ordinary one in the world.”

They sent for the best tire-woman they could get to make up their head-dresses and adjust their double pinners, and they had their red brushes and patches from Mademoiselle de la Poche.

Cinderella was likewise called up to them to be consulted in all these matters, for she had excellent notions, and advised them always for the best, nay, and offered her services to dress their heads, which they were very willing she should do. As she was doing this, they said to her:

“Cinderella, would you not be glad to go to the ball?”

“Alas!” said she, “you only jeer me; it is not for such as I am to go thither.”

“Thou art in the right of it,” replied they; “it would make the people laugh to see a Cinderwench at a ball.”

Anyone but Cinderella would have dressed their heads awry, but she was very good, and dressed them perfectly well They were almost two days without eating, so much were they transported with joy. They broke above a dozen laces in trying to be laced up close, that they might have a fine slender shape, and they were continually at their looking-glass. At last the happy day came; they went to Court, and Cinderella followed them with her eyes as long as she could, and when she had lost sight of them, she fell a-crying.

Her godmother, who saw her all in tears, asked her what was the matter.

“I wish I could—I wish I could—“; she was not able to speak the rest, being interrupted by her tears and sobbing.

This godmother of hers, who was a fairy, said to her, “Thou wishest thou couldst go to the ball; is it not so?”

“Y—es,” cried Cinderella, with a great sigh.

“Well,” said her godmother, “be but a good girl, and I will contrive that thou shalt go.” Then she took her into her chamber, and said to her, “Run into the garden, and bring me a pumpkin.”

Cinderella went immediately to gather the finest she could get, and brought it to her godmother, not being able to imagine how this pumpkin could make her go to the ball. Her godmother scooped out all the inside of it, having left nothing but the rind; which done, she struck it with her wand, and the pumpkin was instantly turned into a fine coach, gilded all over with gold.

She then went to look into her mouse-trap, where she found six mice, all alive, and ordered Cinderella to lift up a little the trapdoor, when, giving each mouse, as it went out, a little tap with her wand, the mouse was that moment turned into a fine horse, which altogether made a very fine set of six horses of a beautiful mouse-colored dapple-gray. Being at a loss for a coachman,

“I will go and see,” says Cinderella, “if there is never a rat in the rat-trap—we may make a coachman of him.”

“Thou art in the right,” replied her godmother; “go and look.”

Cinderella brought the trap to her, and in it there were three huge rats. The fairy made choice of one of the three which had the largest beard, and, having touched him with her wand, he was turned into a fat, jolly coachman, who had the smartest whiskers eyes ever beheld. After that, she said to her:

“Go again into the garden, and you will find six lizards behind the watering-pot, bring them to me.”

She had no sooner done so but her godmother turned them into six footmen, who skipped up immediately behind the coach, with their liveries all bedaubed with gold and silver, and clung as close behind each other as if they had done nothing else their whole lives. The Fairy then said to Cinderella:

“Well, you see here an equipage fit to go to the ball with; are you not pleased with it?”

“Oh! yes,” cried she; “but must I go thither as I am, in these nasty rags?”

Her godmother only just touched her with her wand, and, at the same instant, her clothes were turned into cloth of gold and silver, all beset with jewels. This done, she gave her a pair of glass slippers, the prettiest in the whole world. Being thus decked out, she got up into her coach; but her godmother, above all things, commanded her not to stay till after midnight, telling her, at the same time, that if she stayed one moment longer, the coach would be a pumpkin again, her horses mice, her coachman a rat, her footmen lizards, and her clothes become just as they were before.

She promised her godmother she would not fail of leaving the ball before midnight; and then away she drives, scarce able to contain herself for joy. The King’s son who was told that a great princess, whom nobody knew, was come, ran out to receive her; he gave her his hand as she alighted out of the coach, and led her into the ball, among all the company. There was immediately a profound silence, they left off dancing, and the violins ceased to play, so attentive was everyone to contemplate the singular beauties of the unknown new-comer. Nothing was then heard but a confused noise of:

“Ha! how handsome she is! Ha! how handsome she is!”

The King himself, old as he was, could not help watching her, and telling the Queen softly that it was a long time since he had seen so beautiful and lovely a creature.

All the ladies were busied in considering her clothes and headdress, that they might have some made next day after the same pattern, provided they could meet with such fine material and as able hands to make them.

The King’s son conducted her to the most honorable seat, and afterward took her out to dance with him; she danced so very gracefully that they all more and more admired her. A fine collation was served up, whereof the young prince ate not a morsel, so intently was he busied in gazing on her.

She went and sat down by her sisters, showing them a thousand civilities, giving them part of the oranges and citrons which the Prince had presented her with, which very much surprised them, for they did not know her. While Cinderella was thus amusing her sisters, she heard the clock strike eleven and three-quarters, whereupon she immediately made a courtesy to the company and hasted away as fast as she could.

When she got home she ran to seek out her godmother, and, after having thanked her, she said she could not but heartily wish she might go next day to the ball, because the King’s son had desired her.

As she was eagerly telling her godmother whatever had passed at the ball, her two sisters knocked at the door, which Cinderella ran and opened.

“How long you have stayed!” cried she, gaping, rubbing her eyes and stretching herself as if she had been just waked out of her sleep; she had not, however, any manner of inclination to sleep since they went from home.

“If thou hadst been at the ball,” said one of her sisters, “thou wouldst not have been tired with it. There came thither the finest princess, the most beautiful ever was seen with mortal eyes; she showed us a thousand civilities, and gave us oranges and citrons.”

Cinderella seemed very indifferent in the matter; indeed, she asked them the name of that princess; but they told her they did not know it, and that the King’s son was very uneasy on her account and would give all the world to know who she was. At this Cinderella, smiling, replied:

“She must, then, be very beautiful indeed; how happy you have been! Could not I see her? Ah! dear Miss Charlotte, do lend me your yellow suit of clothes which you wear every day.”

“Ay, to be sure!” cried Miss Charlotte; “lend my clothes to such a dirty Cinderwench as thou art! I should be a fool.”

Cinderella, indeed, expected well such answer, and was very glad of the refusal; for she would have been sadly put to it if her sister had lent her what she asked for jestingly.

The next day the two sisters were at the ball, and so was Cinderella, but dressed more magnificently than before. The King’s son was always by her, and never ceased his compliments and kind speeches to her; to whom all this was so far from being tiresome that she quite forgot what her godmother had recommended to her; so that she, at last, counted the clock striking twelve when she took it to be no more than eleven; she then rose up and fled, as nimble as a deer. The Prince followed, but could not overtake her. She left behind one of her glass slippers, which the Prince took up most carefully. She got home but quite out of breath, and in her nasty old clothes, having nothing left her of all her finery but one of the little slippers, fellow to that she dropped. The guards at the palace gate were asked:

If they had not seen a princess go out.

Who said: They had seen nobody go out but a young girl, very meanly dressed, and who had more the air of a poor country wench than a gentlewoman.

When the two sisters returned from the ball Cinderella asked them: If they had been well diverted, and if the fine lady had been there.

They told her: Yes, but that she hurried away immediately when it struck twelve, and with so much haste that she dropped one of her little glass slippers, the prettiest in the world, which the King’s son had taken up; that he had done nothing but look at her all the time at the ball, and that most certainly he was very much in love with the beautiful person who owned the glass slipper.

What they said was very true; for a few days after the King’s son caused it to be proclaimed, by sound of trumpet, that he would marry her whose foot the slipper would just fit. They whom he employed began to try it upon the princesses, then the duchesses and all the Court, but in vain; it was brought to the two sisters, who did all they possibly could to thrust their foot into the slipper, but they could not effect it. Cinderella, who saw all this, and knew her slipper, said to them, laughing:

“Let me see if it will not fit me.”

Her sisters burst out a-laughing, and began to banter her. The gentleman who was sent to try the slipper looked earnestly at Cinderella, and, finding her very handsome, said:

It was but just that she should try, and that he had orders to let everyone make trial.

He obliged Cinderella to sit down, and, putting the slipper to her foot, he found it went on very easily, and fitted her as if it had been made of wax. The astonishment her two sisters were in was excessively great, but still abundantly greater when Cinderella pulled out of her pocket the other slipper, and put it on her foot. Thereupon, in came her godmother, who, having touched with her wand Cinderella’s clothes, made them richer and more magnificent than any of those she had before.

And now her two sisters found her to be that fine, beautiful lady whom they had seen at the ball. They threw themselves at her feet to beg pardon for all the ill-treatment they had made her undergo. Cinderella took them up, and, as she embraced them, cried:

That she forgave them with all her heart, and desired them always to love her.

She was conducted to the young prince, dressed as she was; he thought her more charming than ever, and, a few days after, married her. Cinderella, who was no less good than beautiful, gave her two sisters lodgings in the palace, and that very same day matched them with two great lords of the Court.(1)

(1) Charles Perrault

Disney’s 59 Classic Films List – RATED!

Pinterest and Blog ImageAn absolute masterpiece, Walt Disney poured his heart and soul into his second film, but was disappointed by it’s box office flop.


Does the story flow well or is it disjointed? Does it have a compelling hook, a solid middle build, and a rewarding pay-off?



Are they likable and relatable? Do they all fit well into the story? Are they well-developed, with good characters arcs?



Did the film push boundaries with technology? Did it take careful time to craft? Is it detailed, harmonious and beautiful?


MusicGeppeto wishing

Are the songs memorable? Do they fit well into the story? Do they all have the same harmonious theme and feel?


Personal PreferenceJiminy cricket.png

Do I, personally, love this film? I love it, but it’s not my favorite.


Total – 46/50

Let me know, in the comments below, how you would rate this film! Is it your favorite, just OK, or really awful?

Pinterest Media Pin

Disney’s first full-length film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is a lovingly-crafted film, full of comical figures, love of beauty, and wicked hate.


Does the story flow well or is it disjointed? Does it have a compelling hook, a solid middle build, and a rewarding pay-off?



Are they likable and relatable? Do they all fit well into the story? Are they well-developed, with good characters arcs?



Did the film push boundaries with technology? Did it take careful time to craft? Is it detailed, harmonious and beautiful?



Are the songs memorable? Do they fit well into the story? Do they all have the same harmonious theme and feel?


Personal PreferenceSnowWhite_183Pyxurz

Do I, personally, love this film? Yes!!!


Total – 46/50

Let me know, in the comments below, how you would rate this film! Is it your favorite, just OK, or really awful?

Morte de Jack – the Fourth Part of the Jack Saga

Chapter 1

Once upon a time, Jack ruled well and wisely, and made many enemies. All the citizens of his kingdom loved him like their own father, and took a personal interest in all his family affairs. They had rejoiced when his daughter Rose married her wonderful husband Prince Joseph, and they mourned when his snippety, crotetchety, well-meaning mother passed away. She had lived a full, rich life ever since Jack had come down from the beanstalk, vintage-1653946and though she often complained, unable to shake off those earlier years of constant misfortune and accustom herself to the splendors of her comfortable existence, she had always been inordinately proud of her son.

Yet, there were those who salivated to see his head on a platter. Jack had spent his life eradicating the evil around and in his lands, and there were many witches, goblins, dragons,  werewolves, and other fearsome beasts who boiled hot in their revengeful hate against him. fairytale-1735371Including a whole family of giants who hated him for killing their evil uncle. (Except they really hated him for stealing the golden harp – they didn’t care about their uncle.)

They held a gathering in the dark forest, which was called so because daylight never penetrated through the deep foliage overhead, to decide what to do about this aggravating king.

“We should curse him!”

“Kidnap his daughter!”

“Eat him for dinner!”

Now, evil creatures do not have good imaginations. As they clamored loud for all these ill fates to befall the king, they did not stop to consider that everyone had already been tried, and failed. But the witches were cleverer than the rest, and putting their three heads together (witches always come in threes, just ask Macbeth), they hatched a plan. It was not completely original, but it had more potential to it than any of the other suggestions.

They gathered their forces together, and marched off against the kingdom of Jack.

architecture-3095716_1920As they marched they burned every farm and town they came across, so that they people fled to Jack’s castle ahead of the marching horde. They begged Jack to save them, and Jack rose from his throne, called his knights together, and rode out to meet the enemy. Every able-bodied man took up a sword to march behind their beloved king, while Queen Miranda and her daughter Rose stayed behind to care for the women, children, and elderly. (I think they had the harder job, but they liked it better).

The clash of blade against teeth, the meeting of two great armies, the cries of living and dying, were too epic to convey on a mere piece of paper. King Jack slew every giant that bent to kill him and Prince Joseph pierced the heart of every wicked witch. While knights Rojo and Verde killed the werewolves that jumped at their throats, Sirs Richard and George faced the fairies that buzzed against them like angry wasps. Terence and Corncob led the charge against the two dragons, and Serence devotedly defended the life of his king with every thrust and parry of his blade.

What the heroes did not know is that, while they fought with every ounce of their strength to protect the innocents back at the palace, the enemy had cunningly sent a small team to circumvent the battle and infiltrate the kingdom. While Jack killed giants on the battlefield, a witch, with a retinue of fairies, entered the palace, killed the guards, and stole away the queen and princess.

Successful, as Jack always is over evil, on the battlefield, Sir Serence told the King he should return home and leave the clean-up to the knights. “Reassure your people and the queen. We can handle this mess.”

Jack was grateful, and he and Joseph headed back to the palace accompanied by the wounded who could travel. Imagine the elation he felt, returning after a grueling day, after performing unsavory chores, to see his wife and daughter, and the weak of his kingdom, whom he loved with his whole being, to tell them they are safe – perhaps forever. The enemy is slain or fled, weakened and demoralized. Imagine how he anticipated embracing his beautiful, loving wife, who has taken such excellent care of his subjects in his absence. Imagine how he yearned to hold some little children in his arms, for every young citizen knew he cared for them like a proud grandfather. With these expectations, then, buoying his spirits, imagine his utter devastation when he returned to the palace to find the little ones cowering beneath tables, his knights all slain, and his wife and daughter gone.

sad boy“What has become of you?” he asked the young boy who threw himself against the king’s leather vest and clung while he cried.

“Someone came and took them away. An ugly hag and vicious pucks!” he wept.

As Prince Joseph herded the young ones into the room where the rest of the citizens had fled, fearing the worst for their little children, Jack realized the devious nature of the battlefield. He had been lured away from the palace so his family could be stolen from under his nose.

“What next, King-Father?” asked Joseph, his face white with loss, but his stance at attention. Wherever his wife was, he would find her again. With Jack beside him, he would not fear.

“Your majesty,” said John, a young soldier who had been wounded in the arm in the battle, “we can care for your people. Go. Find your wife.” All the lightly wounded soldiers nodded, rallying together for the king as he had always rallied for them.

Jack lifted his sword. “Let’s go.”

Chapter 2 Coming Soon…

The Little Mermaid: An Immortal Soul

“Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass.”

The opening lines of this fairy tale immediately set the tone. Reminiscent of fragrance and translucence, Anderson prefigures the ending of his tale, when the little mermaid will become an airy wind, flitting about the earth, and doing good deeps to gain an immortal soul. But in order to reach the heights, he must first bring us to the depths. So he brings us down, down, the height of many steeples stacked one upon the other, down to the depths of that world.

Then he describes it. In vivid, watercolor beauty, he takes four paragraphs (which I will not do) to paint the pristine and intricate image of life beneath the sea. This is a tale Anderson cared for, nurturing it like a mother with her babe, setting it out like a designer for a stage. He tells about the little mermaids living beneath the sea who arrange their garden plots, and offhandedly, gently, he introduces the youngest of them. “She was an unusual child, quiet and wistful, and when her sisters decorated their gardens with all kinds of odd things they had found in sunken ships, she would allow nothing in hers except flowers as red as the sun, and a pretty marble statue.”

This is not a story about a rebellious teenager, or a lover of trinkets and gadgets. This is a careful story, full of meaning, heart, and tender dreams. The Little Mermaid does not merely want a prince to fall in love with her; this desire, for her, is only the beginning of the journey. As her desire deepens, her world widens.

First, she loves the statue. It is beautiful and simple, and represents something she does not have. We can all relate to desire, since we all yearn for something more – something that beckons us to transcend the mundane and traverse the heavens. For her, the world above is what the universe is to us. She explores it and encounters the prince. He is a world beyond her own, and she watches him in his sphere above. But the more she “looks to the stars” in her own sense, the more she learns that there is something even beyond that. “Don’t they die, as we do down here in the sea?” she asks her grandmother, seeking to know more of these creatures, but not possibly imagining the magnificence of the answer.

‘”Yes,’ the old lady said, ‘they too must die, and their lifetimes are even shorter than ours….We are like the green seaweed – once cut down, it never grows again. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, long after their bodies have turned to clay. It rises through thin air, up to the shining stars. Just as we rise through the water to see the lands on earth, so men rise up to beautiful places unknown, which we shall never see.”‘

Now the littlest mermaid knows there is a life even beyond her wildest dreams, and her former desires bow to it in reverence. Her entire being yearns, aches, trembles now for this new idea. “‘Why weren’t we given an immortal soul?'” she cries. “‘I would gladly give up my three hundred years if I could be a human being only for a day, and later share in that heavenly realm.'” Although she has been in love with the prince before now, this is the first time she expresses any concrete desire to be human. Her love for the prince caused her to discover something greater, as any human love ought to do.

Unable to shake free of the desire for an immortal soul, the littlest mermaid decides to go to the sea witch. For the mermaid knows if she can get the prince to love her as she loves him, and if he swears to love her for all eternity while a priest joins their hands in marriage, then she will gain an immortal soul and eternal happiness with her beloved. To make this come true, she endures a harrowing experience.

The witch is no fairy godmother. There is no sparkle and wave of a pretty wand, but a forest of frightening polyps who will strangle you. And the witch herself is hideous, bulbous, and crass. She is gleeful about the mermaid’s suffering, and bargains cold-heartedly for the girl’s greatest treasure, her beautiful voice. She must give it up on the bargain that the prince will love her, or else, if he marries someone else, she will turn into sea foam the very next day. She warns the girl she will endure terrible agony walking above ground: “‘every step you take will feel as if you are treading on knife blades so sharp that blood must flow. I am willing to help you, but are you willing to suffer all this?’ ‘Yes,’ the little mermaid said in a trembling voice, as she thought of the Prince and of gaining an immortal soul.'” The sea witch, despite Anderson’s description which paints her as a hideous and cruel being, perfectly capable of stepping into the role of villain (and indeed, taking that role in the Disney version), is not the antagonist of the story. The Little Mermaid is not Snow White and this is no moral tale warning against selfish witches. For the witch, in the tale, represents more than herself. She is the voice of terror, pain, and ultimately, evil itself. The Little Mermaid is not committing evil to be human, but she is willing for it to exert its influence upon her, so she can gain something greater than mere comfort. “‘Let us leap and bound throughout the three hundred years that we have to live. Surely that is time and to spare, and afterwards we shall be glad enough to rest in our graves;'” thus her grandmother had urged of her, but the little mermaid is not content to be comfortable for three hundred years – she wants more. She would “dare do anything to win him [the prince] and gain an immortal soul.”

If the witch is not the villain, and the mermaid has already gone through so much agony, then the ending of the story seems clear. The prince must fall in love with her, and she must, thereby, gain an immortal soul. But then the unimaginable happens. Though the prince loves her with a great love, he never makes her his bride, but falls for someone else and marries her instead. In her struggle to gain a soul, the little mermaid has sacrificed her voice, her tail, her home, her family, and now her life. She has given up everything for him, and now she will simply fade away, disappear like the ‘green seaweed – once cut down, it never grows again.’

Her sisters are terrified for her, and make their own bargain with the sea witch, and this time, the little mermaid must participate in evil in order to return to the depths. If the little mermaid stabs the prince in his sleep before the sun rises, she will return to the sea, a  mermaid again, who can live on in comfort for three hundred years. They give her the knife and she enters the prince’s chamber. But she was never in search of comfort, and she had never acted out of selfishness. She would rather lose everything completely than betray her love, so she hurls herself into the sea and becomes light, frothing foam.

Just as her love for the prince first inspired her to yearn for a human soul, so her love for him redeems her in the end. “The little mermaid discovered…that she was gradually rising out of the foam.” Since the little mermaid has done her best and noblest to gain an immortal soul, she discovers that she can now spend three hundred years as a cool breeze doing good deeds to finally gain one. She can rise above, touch the stars, and live in eternity.

The little mermaid is not a story about the fulfillment of a human love. Anderson, instead, told a greater tale. It is the saga of how a heart, yearning for a deep fulfillment, was opened through human love to the possibility of something greater. Ultimately disappointed, as we all must be by mortals, in the love of a man, the heart finds in eternity that bliss we all seek. And the little mermaid, who through a lack of a soul could not weep before, ‘lifted her clear bright eyes towards God’s sun, and for the first time her eyes were wet with tears.’


Artwork courtesy of

Translation of ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Anderson courtesy of Barnes and Noble: The Complete Fairy Tales, 2010 edition.

“Jorinda and Jorindel” by Brothers Grimm

There was once an old castle that stood in the middle of a large thick wood, and in the castle lived an old fairy. All the day long she flew about in the form of an owl, or crept about the country like a cat; but at night she always became an old woman again. When any youth came within a hundred paces of her castle, he became quite fixed, and could not move a step till she came and set him free: but when any pretty maiden came within that distance, she was changed into a bird; and the fairy put her into a cage and hung her up in a chamber in the castle. There were seven hundred of these cages hanging in the castle, and all with beautiful birds in them.

Now there was once a maiden whose name was Jorinda: she was prettier than all the pretty girls that ever were seen; and a shepherd whose name was Jorindel was very fond of her, and they were soon to be married. One day they went to walk in the wood, that they might be alone; and Jorindel said, “We must take care that we don’t go too near to the castle.” It was a beautiful evening; the last rays of the setting sun shone bright through the long stems of the trees upon the green underwood beneath, and the turtledoves sang plaintively from the tall birches.

Jorinda sat down to gaze upon the sun; Jorindel sat by her side; and both felt sad, they knew not why; but it seemed as if they were to be parted from one another for ever. They had wandered a long way; and when they looked to see which way they should go home, they found themselves at a loss to know what path to take.

The sun was setting fast, and already half of his circle had disappeared behind the hill: Jorindel on a sudden looked behind him, and as he saw through the bushes that they had, without knowing it, sat down close under the old walls of the castle, he shrank for fear, turned pale, and trembled. Jorinda was singing,

“The ring-dove sang from the willow spray,

Well-a-day! well-a-day!

He mourn’d for the fate

Of his lovely mate,


The song ceased suddenly. Jorindel turned to see the reason, and beheld his Jorinda changed into a nightingale; so that her song ended with a mournful jug, jug. An owl with fiery eyes flew three times round them, and three times screamed Tu whu! T whu! Jorindel could not move: he stood fixed as a stone, and could neither weep, nor speak, nor stir hand or foot. And now the sun went quite down; the gloomy night came; the owl flew into a bush; and a moment after the old fairy came forth, pale and meagre, with staring eyes, and a nose and chin that almost met one another.

She mumbled something to herself, seized the nightingale, and went away with it in her hand. Poor Jorendel saw the nightingale was gone, — but what could he do? he could not move from the spot where he stood. At last the fairy came back, and sang with a hoarse voice,

“Till the prisoner’s fast,

And her doom is cast,

There stay! Oh, stay!

When the charm is around her,

And the spell has bound her,

Hi away! away!”

On a sudden, Jorindel found himself free. The he fell on his knees before the fairy, and prayed her to give him back his dear Jorinda: but she said he should never see her again, and went her way.

He prayed, he wept, he sorrowed, but all in vain. “Alas!” he wept, “what will become of me?”

He could not return to his own home, so he went to a strange village, and employed himself in keeping sheep. Many a time did he walk round and round as near to the hated castle as he dared go. At last he dreamt one night that he found a beautiful purple flower, and in the middle of it lay a costly pearl; and he dreamt that he plucked the flower, and went with it in his hand into the castle, and that every thing he touched with it was disenchanted, and that there he found his dear Jorinda again.

In the morning when he awoke, he began to search over hill and dale for this pretty flower; and eight long days he sought for it in vain: but on the ninth day early in the morning he found the beautiful purple flower; and in the middle of it was a large dew drop as big as a costly pearl.

Then he plucked the flower, and set out and traveled day and night till he came again to the castle. He walked nearer than a hundred paces to it, and yet he did not become fixed as before, but found that he could go close up to the door.

Jorinda and JorindelJorindel was very glad to see this: he touched the door with the flower, and it sprang open, so that he went in through the court, and listened when he heard so many birds singing. At last he came to the chamber where the fairy sat, with the seven hundred birds singing in the seven hundred cages. And when she saw Jorindel she was very angry, and screamed with rage; but she could not come within two yards of him; for the flower he held in his hand protected him. He looked around at the birds, but alas! there were many many nightingales, and how then should he find his Jorinda? While he was thinking what to do, he observed that the fairy had taken down one of the cages, and was making her escape through the door. He ran or flew to her, touched the cage with the flower, — and his Jorinda stood before him. She threw her arms round his neck and looked as beautiful as ever, as beautiful as when they walked together in the wood.

Then he touched all the other birds with the flower, so that they resumed their old forms; and took his dear Jorinda home, where they lived happily together many years.

Photo Credit: first photo courtesy of

The Water of Life


Long before you and I were born there reigned, in a country a great way off, a king who had three sons. This king once fell very ill, so ill that nobody thought he would live. His sons were very much grieved at their father’s sickness; and as they walked weeping in the garden of the palace, an old man met them and asked what they ailed. They told him their father was so ill that they were afraid nothing could save him. ‘I know what would,’ said the old man; ‘it is the Water of Life. If he could have a draught of it he would be well again, but it is very hard to get.’ Then the eldest son said, ‘I will soon find it’ and went to the sick king, and begged that he would go in search of the Water of Life, as it was the only thing that could save him. ‘No,’ said the king; ‘I had rather die that place you in such great danger as you must meet with in your journey.’ But he begged so hard that the king let him go; and the prince thought to himself, ‘If I bring my father this water I shall be his dearest son, and he will make me heir to his kingdom.’

Then he set out, and when he had gone on his way some time he came to a deep valley overhung with rocks and woods; and as he looked around there stood above him on one of the rocks a little dwarf, who called out to him and said, ‘Prince, whither hastest thou so fast?’ ‘What is that to you, little ugly one?’ said the prince sneeringly, and rode on his way. But the little dwarf fell into a great rage at his behavior, and laid a spell of ill luck upon him, so that, as he rode on, the mountain pass seemed to become narrower and narrower, and at last the way was so straitened that he could not go a step forward, and when he thought to have turned his horse round and gone back the way he came, the passage he found had closed behind also; and shut him quite up; he next tried to get off his horse and make his way on foot, but this he was unable to do, and so there he was forced to abide spell-bound.


Meantime the king his father was lingering on in daily hope of his return, till at last the second son said, ‘Father, I will go in search of this Water;’ for he thought to himself, ‘My brother is surely dead, and the kingdom will fall to me if I have good luck in my journey.’ The king was at first very unwilling to let him go, but at last yielded to his wish. So he set out and followed the same road which his brother had taken, and met the same dwarf, who stopped him at the same spot, and said as before, ‘Prince, whither hastest thou so fast?’ ‘Mind your own affairs, busy body!’ answered the prince scornfully, and rode off. But the dwarf put the same enchantment upon him, and when he came life the other to the narrow pass in the mountains he could neither move forward nor backward. Thus it is with proud silly people, who think themselves too wise to take advice.

When the second prince had thus stayed away a long while, the youngest said he would go and search for the Water of Life, and trusted he should soon be able to make his father well again. The dwarf met him too at the same spot, and said, ‘Prince, whither hastest thou so fast?’ and the prince said, ‘I go in search of the Water of Life, because my father is ill and life to die; –can you help me?’ ‘Do you know where it is to be found?’ asked the dwarf. ‘No,’ said the prince. ‘Then as you have spoken to me kindly and sought for advice, I will tell you how and where to go. The Water you seek springs from a well in an enchanted castle, and that you may be able to go in safety I will give you an iron wand and two little loaves of bread; strike the iron door of the castle three times with the wand, and it will open: two hungry lions will be lying down inside gaping for their prey; but if you throw them the bread they will let you pass; then hasten on to the well and take some of the Water of Life before the clock strikes twelve, for if you tarry longer the door will shut upon you for ever.’


Then the prince thanked the dwarf for his friendly aid, and took the wand and the bread and went travelling on and on over sea and land, till he came to his journey’s end, and found everything to be as the dwarf had told him. The door flew open at the third stroke of the wand, and when the lions were quieted he went on through the castle, and came at length to a beautiful hall; around it he saw several knights sitting in a trance; then he pulled off their rings and put them on his own fingers. In another room he saw on a table a sword and a loaf of bread, which he also took. Further on he came to a room where a beautiful young lady sat upon a couch, who welcomed him joyfully, and said, if he would set her free from the spell that bound her, the kingdom should be his if he would come back in a year and marry her; then she told him that the well that held the Water of Life was in the palace gardens, and bid him make haste and draw what he wanted before the clock struck twelve. Then he went on, and as he walked through beautiful gardens, he came to a delightful shady spot in which stood a couch; and he thought to himself for a while and gaze on the lovely scenes around him. So he laid himself down, and sleep fell upon him unawares and he did not wake up till the clock was striking a quarter to twelve; then he sprang from the couch dreadfully frightened, ran to the well, filled a cup that was standing by him full of Water, and hastened to get away in time. Just as he was going out of the iron door it struck twelve, and the door fell so quickly upon him that it tore away a piece of his heel.

When he found himself safe he was overjoyed to think that he had got the Water of Life; and as he was going on his way homewards, he passed by the little dwarf, who when he saw the sword and the loaf said, ‘You have made a noble prize; with the sword you can at a blow slay whole armies, and the bread will never fail.’ Then the prince thought to himself, ‘I cannot go home to my father without my brothers;’ so he said, ‘Dear dwarf, cannot you tell me where my two brothers are, who set out in search of the Water of Life before me and never came back?’ ‘I have shut them up by a charm between two mountains,’ said the dwarf, ‘because they were proud and ill behaved, and scorned to ask advice.’ The prince begged so hard for his brothers that the dwarf at last set them free, though unwillingly, saying, ‘Beware of them, for they have bad hearts.’ Their brother, however, was greatly rejoiced to see them, and told them all that had happened to him, how he had found the Water of Life, and had taken a cup full of it, and how he had set a beautiful princess free from the spell that bound her; and how she had engaged to wait a whole year, and then to marry him and give him the kingdom. Then they all three rode on together, and on their way home came to a country that was laid waste by war and a dreadful famine, so that it was feared all must die for want. But the prince gave the king of the land the bread, and all his kingdom ate of it. And he slew the enemy’s army with the wonderful sword, and left the kingdom in peace and plenty. In the same manner he befriended two other countries that they passed through on their way.

When they came to the sea, they got into a ship, and during their voyage the two eldest said to themselves, ‘Our brother has got the Water which we could not find, therefore our father will forsake us, and give him the kingdom which is our right;’ so they were full of envy and revenge, and agreed together how they could ruin him. They waited till he was fast asleep, and then poured the Water of Life out of the cup and took it for themselves, giving him bitter seawater instead. And when they came to their journey’s end, the youngest son brought his cup to the sick king, that he might drink and be healed. Scarcely, however, had he tasted the bitter sea–water when he became worse even than he was before, and then both the elder sons came in and blamed the youngest for what he had done, and said that he wanted to poison their father, but that they had found the Water of Life and had brought it with them, He no sooner began to drink of what they brought him, than he felt his sickness leave him, and said, ‘Well, brother, you found the Water of Life, did you? you have had the trouble and we shall have the reward; pray, with all your cleverness, why did not you manage to keep your eyes open? Next year one of us will take away your beautiful princess, if you do not take care; you had better say nothing about this to our father, for he does not believe a word you say, and if you tell tales, you shall lose your life into the bargain, but be quiet and we will let you off.’

The old king was still very angry with his youngest son, and thought he really meant to have taken away his life; so he called his court together and asked what should be done, and it was settled that he should be put to death. The prince knew nothing of what was going on, till one day when the king’s chief huntsman went a-hinting with him, and they were alone in the wood together, the huntsman looked so sorrowful that the prince said, ‘My friend, what is the matter with you?’ ‘I cannot and dare not tell you,’ said he. But the prince begged hard and said, ‘Only say what it is, and do not think I shall be angry, for I will forgive you.’ ‘Alas!’ said the huntsman, ‘the king has ordered me to shoot you.’ The prince started at this, and said, ‘Let me live, and I will change dresses with you; you shall take my royal coat and show to my father, and do you give me your shabby one.’ ‘With all my heart,’ said the huntsman; ‘I am sure I shall be glad to save you, for I could not have shot you.’ Then he took the prince’s coat, and gave him the shabby one, and went away through the wood.

Some time after, three grand embassies came to the old king’s court, with rick gifts of gold and precious stones for his youngest son, which were sent from the three kings to whom he had lent his sword and loaf of bread, to rid them of their enemy, and feed their people. This touched the old king’s heart, and he thought his son might still be guiltless, and said to his court, ‘Oh! that my son were still alive! how it grieves me that I had him killed!’ ‘He still lives,’ said the huntsman; ‘and I rejoice that I had pity on him, and saved him, for when the time came, I could not shoot him, but let him go in peace and brought home his royal coat.’ At this the king was overwhelmed with you, and made it known throughout all his kingdom, that if his son would come back to his court, he would forgive him.

Meanwhile the princess was eagerly waiting the return of her deliverer, and had a road made leading up to her palace all of shining gold; and told her courtiers that whoever came on horseback and rode straight up to the gate upon it, was her true lover, and that they must let him in; but whoever rode on one side of it, they must be sure was not the right one, and must send him away at once.


The time came, when the eldest thought he would make haste to go to the princess, and say that he was the one who ha set her free, and that he should have her for his wife, and the kingdom with her. As he came before the palace and saw the golden road, he stopped to look at it, and thought to himself, ‘It is a pity to ride upon this beautiful road;’ so he turned aside and rode on the right of it. But when he came to the gate, the guards said to him, he was not what he said he was, and must go about his business. The second prince set out soon afterwards on the same errand; and when he came to the golden road, and his horse had set one foot upon it, he stopped to look at it, and thought it very beautiful, and said to himself, ‘What a pity it is that anything should tread here!’ then he too turned aside and rode on the left of it. But when he came to the gate the guards said he was not the true prince, and that he too must go away.

Now when the full year was come, the third brother left the wood, where he had laid for fear of his father’s anger, and set out in search of his betrothed bride. So he journeyed on, thinking of her all the way, and rode so quickly that he did not even see the golden road, but went with his horse straight over it; and as he came to the gate, it flew open, and the princess welcomed him with joy, and said he was her deliverer and should now be her husband and lost of the kingdom, and the marriage was soon kept with great feasting. When it was over, the princess told him she had heard of his father having forgiven him, and of his wish to have him home again: so he went to visit him, and told him every thing, how his brothers had cheated and robbed him, and yet that he had born all these wrongs for the love of his father. Then the old king was very angry, and wanted to punish his wicked sons but they made their escape, and got into a ship and sailed away over the wide sea, and were never hear of any more.

Source: The Grimm’s Fairy Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, published by Puffin Classics in the year 2010

Fairy Tale Princesses – The Heroine, the Anti-hero, and the Victim


It is a truth universally acknowledged that the fairy tale princesses of Perrault, Anderson, Grimm, etc., were written to be heroines, role models, perfect representations of the perfect woman; an archetype, if you will. Snow White’s habit of lying around in a coffin teaches girls passive acceptance. Sleeping Beauty reminds them that beauty triumphs over any difficulty. And they can clearly see that Prince Charming only marries Cinderella because her self-abasement after the ball is appealing to his male chauvinism. In misreading these fairy tales, modern individuals seek to alter, prune, or explain away the negative elements, reworking the female lead into a strong, independent heroine who will stand for no weakness, no saving prince, and no redemption. But not all princesses were written to be role models, and many of those that were, represented virtues generally overlooked, but by no means outdated, in modern society.

Besides the heroine, there are two other types of Fairy Tale Princesses: the anti-heroine and the victim.


Cinderella is one of the most controversial characters in fairy tale lore. Is she a good woman who exercises virtue, or a passive, weak victim of her abusive family? “If only Perrault wrote Cinderella as a molder of her own future! If only she had defied her oppressors and won respect! Then she would be a proper role model for our daughters.” Thus argue some critics of the tale, but such an argument puts emphasis on the wrong part of the story: on the wrong virtues. Cinderella is much more real and her triumph far more wonderful. Sometimes, we are not masters of our own fate; sometimes, we are trapped in a world beyond our power; and that is Cinderella’s reality. In such an unfair world, despair easily blots out all light, joy, or promise, but not for this Princess. Perrault describes her with a “sweet and gentle nature”, saying that she got this from “her mother, who had been the nicest person in the world.” He says that “the poor girl endured everything patiently, not daring to complain to her father.” Not because she was passive and weak, but because he was. He “would have scolded her, because he was entirely ruled by his wife.” Her actions, then, instead of being weak, are prudent. When the sisters are preparing for the ball, Cinderella offers to help them. This displays the virtue of brotherly love, or liberality, which is remarkable in her situation and shows great maturity of character, “anyone else but Cinderella would have done their hair amiss, but she was good-natured, and she finished them off to perfection.”  When they leave, she does something completely human and not at all wrong: she cries. cinderellaNot in despair or to complain, but from a natural, human heaviness of heart. Finally, Cinderella displays incredible trust in the divine when, over the course of three days, she makes no claim to her magnificence but waits to see how all will come right. Cinderella may not display the typical feminist virtues of action, self-salvation, or emotional strength, but she displays something much greater: trust, patience, and strength of soul.


Snow White, it may surprise you to hear, is not a heroine. She was never meant to be a role model, but to serve as a In the Grimm’s version, wherein she is known as Snow Drop, she is young, innocent, and beautiful, and for this reason must flee for her life. Right from the start, we learn goodness and innocence often lead to oppression. As the story unfolds, the innocent Snow Drop faces cruel reality, evil cloaked in deceitful goodness, and three times she is blind to its tricks. The Dwarfs tell her, “The queen will soon find out where you are, so take care and let no one in.” She tries to rely on her own judgment, disregarding the advice of the seven little men, cottageand all three times, she fails.

  1. “‘I will let the old lady in, she seems to be a very good sort of body’…Snow-drop did not dream of any mischief; so she stood up before the old woman; but she set to work so nimbly, and pulled the lace so tight, that Snow-drop lost her breath, and fell down as if she were dead.”
  2. “Snow-drop said, ‘I dare not let anyone in.’ Then the queen said, ‘Only look at my beautiful combs;’ and gave her the poisoned one. And it looked so pretty that she took it up and put it in her hair to try it; but the moment in touched her head the poison was so powerful that she fell down senseless.”
  3. “‘I dare not let any one in, for the dwarfs have told me not.’… ‘You silly girl!’ answered the other, ‘what are you afraid of? do you think it’s poisoned?’…she had scarcely put the piece into her mouth, when she fell down dead upon the ground.”

As punishment, she falls into a death-like slumber. In a way, she deserves to remain there: she was naive to a fault, and received not only a second chance, but a third, and ignored prudence every time. It is by the mercy of God that she not only receives a fourth chance when the Prince comes along, but a passionate, adoring love. The final lesson, then, from Snow White, is sometimes, through no merit of our own, we get a happy ending.


The last type of Princess is the victim.The victim succumbs not to a witch, or a dragon, or a wicked step-mother, or an evil king, but to something invisible, intangible, powerful. Two examples of such princesses are The Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel. The Sleeping Beauty is the victim of fate, sleeping-beauty-1503326and her story asks the question whether we can escape our curses and blessings? Her parents do all they can to save their daughter from her terrible fate, but ultimately there is no salvation. Not, that is, until she has first suffered. Then her salvation finally comes to her in the form of her godmother’s blessing: she is awoken at the end of one hundred years by a gallant prince who risks death for her sake. The final life lesson the story of Sleeping Beauty leaves its reader is the assurance that just because our inescapable fate may lead to years of misery, there is joy at the end.

Rapunzel’s fate, on the other hand, is not external, but self-inflicted. Like Snow White, she is naive. But unlike Snow White, she does not merely make a mistake: she falls into the sin of lust. Both she and the Prince fall victim to sin in this story. Tfairytale-1735367he miseries that befall them are in expiation for their failures:
Rapunzel is exiled to a desert to raise her twins conceived in sin, and the prince is blinded (effectually removing the occasion of his sin, sight) and wanders the world alone. This story has been extensively altered from its original version by both the Brothers Grimm and more recent storytellers, but its original conveys the idea best.

Between once upon a time and happily ever after is not always the cute, clear-cut story we pretend it is. Like real life, fairy tales are full of mess, consequences, and human frailty. There are good people, evil people, and then just people, who do their best to be good but sometimes fall low.

Sources Cited:

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Grimm’s Fairy Tales. 2010, Puffin Classics, New York.

Perrault, Charles. Perrault’s Complete Fairy Tales. 1961, Dodd, Mead and Company, United States of America.


Fairy Tale Definition #1

Fairy Tale: A story intended for children that bursts the bonds of childhood and speaks to the innermost hearts of the old.