Discussion Post: What is Your Favorite Fairy Tale/Folk Legend and Why?

This is a good discussion question, right? Because all of us should have some kind of folk tale/fairy tale behind us!

Oh dear, I forgot that I would have to pick first! What is my favorite fairy tale? Out of the many MANY fairy tales I like? I think today, I will pick “Rumpelstiltskin”.

Story:

A poor miller lies to the king to impress him that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king arrests the girl and locks her in a room with straw, ordering her to spin it into gold or die. Then an imp appears in the room and offers to spin for her, if she will give him a gift, so she gives him a ring. Same thing happens the next day. Third day, she has nothing left to give and so he asks for her first born child. He spins the straw into gold one last time, and then the king offers to marry her since she has such a marvelous gift. She has a baby and then the imp reappears demanding payment. She bargains with him and gets him to agree to give up the baby if she can guess his name. She tries for 2 days to guess his name and then goes out in the woods hunting for him. She overhears him talking to himself and learns his name, “Rumpelstiltskin”. And the next day, she plays up the reveal of his name so that he becomes so angry, he stomps his foot through the ground and dies.

Five Retellings of “Rumpelstiltskin” — A Very Odd Story, Indeed | Tor.com

Many reasons to like this one! A heroine who survives on her wits start to finish, first paying off Rumpelstiltskin to spin straw into gold, and then figuring out his real name, and even getting him so angry he splits with fury. No nonsense of a Magic Prince or Romance. The King is a horrible person, but she marries him because it’s good to be married to the King. This is a happy ending purely based on power and privilege, not True Love. And her goal is to save her child. Most of all, start to finish this is a woman saving herself from horrible men! Her father lies about her, Rumpelstiltskin wants her child, the king just wants the gold, all she is trying to do is survive and keep her child and she manages it.

Anyway, what’s your favorite?

31 thoughts on “Discussion Post: What is Your Favorite Fairy Tale/Folk Legend and Why?

  1. But … As far as I remember, most of the original fairy tales have no nonsense of a Magic Prince or Romance. That’s all part of the Disney conspiracy. In the Grimm versions, I think marrying a prince/king is only ever about the fact that it tends to be nice to be married to power.

    With Rumpelstiltskin, I always think of a story from my textbook in fifth or sixth grade, about how the author always felt sorry for the imp: He keeps up his end of the bargain, why does he have to go to hell for that?

    I’ve read quite a few fairytales in my time. I think I relate to the Ugly Duckling, quite applicable for any gay person, I’d guess. It’s not about taking off your glasses and putting on make-up, but about growing into the person you really are.

    My mother also had a collection with stories from around the world. I liked Beauty and the Beast from the French volume. I remember there was a story quite a bit like Cinderella in the Chinese one. And I think from Russia came the story where the greedy neighbor wished to keep doing the first thing she started in the morning – and ended up peeing a lake.

    When I think about it, though, the one that really comes back to me is one about patience. I don’t even remember where it was from, but in essence, it was pretty short: There’s this guy who wants to learn patience, and he goes to learn from the greatest guru in the world. When he arrives there, though, it turns out the place is a smithy, and when he asks the master to teach him patience, his response is “work the bellows”. He does so for seven years, working the bellows in silence, just like everyone else there is doing their repetitive tasks in silence. After seven years, he again approaches the master: “Teach me patience.” “Work the bellows.” So he does, for another seven years. Then he asks again, gets the same answer. The third time he asks, the answer is somewhere along the lines of “I have”. So the guy goes home, excited to see his wife after so many years. But when he looks in at the window, she’s sitting there with a young man, laughing, feeding him, caressing him. The husband goes into a blind rage and almost shoots the other guy through the window, but he decides to confront his wife first. And what does she tell him: The young man is his son, and he almost killed him on impulse despite having just learned patience for two decades.
    I’m not even sure whether the moral is “you can’t learn patience” or “you can’t ever learn enough patience”, but I guess the story just resonates with me on that not jumping to conclusions level.

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    • I used to feel like that about Rumpelstiltskin, but I think it is a really interesting story in terms of power structures! The heroine was at the mercy of her father and the king, she did not have the option of refusing anything Rumpelstiltskin asked. So was that really a fair bargain? Even if you think of Rumpelstiltskin as not doing anything directly wrong to her, he was taking advantage of the unfair situation in which she was. Why should she play by the same rules as those in power, if those rules serve only to keep them in power?

      I really like your story. And I also like it if the lesson is “this guy isn’t a guru, he is just a smart smithy getting cheap labor”.

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    • He abandoned his wife and son for no reason and not only he returns after 21 years as if nothing had happened , he still has courage to be angry with the wife?
      The moral is: men are trash 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh boy, here is a laundry list of them. I am a sucker for fairy tales:

    – The Little Mermaid: She makes the choices herself, has the support of her family when they know her situation, the prince and princess are never seen as evil – they just fell in love even if it was an arranged marriage – and even though she dies she still “lives”. It’s a bittersweet ending. My favourite version of this is the Soviet 1976 film Rusalochka/Rusalka that you can watch with subs on YouTube. I cry every time.

    – Beauty and the Beast – I will literally read and watch every version of this story over and over again. I love it to bits, even though it’s not the original Villeneuve version (which is much darker and has more plot to it compared to the better known Beaumont version) and I love the Disney movie to bits.

    – Vasilisa The Beautiful – a smart heroine, a variant of the cinderella story, her ultimate prize is to become a weaver and then the tsar marries her, but that marriage is really like an afterthought added on later. I like to think she literally spent her happy days as a spinster, both metaphorically and literally. An unusual end for a fairy tale, especially from such a conservative country as Russia.

    – The Little Match Girl – Have you seen the Disney short? This made me cry so much. Just, such a way to traumatize children at an early age from HC Andersen. He really didn’t pull any punches when it came to this one. I don’t know why, maybe I am a glutton for punishment, but I like tragic endings.

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    • Andersen’s stories really do tend towards the beautiful, but incredibly sad. Especially if, like me, you don’t believe in an afterlife or really even a soul. That kind of takes the sweet out of his bittersweet endings.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You are so DARK! I like Beauty and the Beast, and I don’t know the Russian one and have to look it up, but I can’t stand the original Little Mermaid and Little Match Girl! So SAD!!!!!! NO!!! Don’t like it.

      On Wed, May 26, 2021 at 4:44 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Oh please, if I was really dark I would have said my favourites were the original Cinderella with the stepsisters cutting their toes off and them going blind or The Red Shoes which is another type of body horror. Or almost anything from The Brothers Grimm with the stories they wrote down and edited (and changed) from the women they listened to.

        Personally, I don’t see myself as DARK, but I know that I have a tragedy loving melancholic streak when it comes to stories I love.

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        • I love the original Cinderella and other stories! Is it the end of Snow White where they give her the iron shoes burned up red hot until she dances herself to death? Body horror and griseliness are totally fine by me so long as the main characters get to be happy!

          On Thu, May 27, 2021 at 1:13 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Thank you for making me look at Rumplestiltskin in a new way!

    Beauty and the Beast was my favorite growing up. And just now I decided the beast is Mr. Darcy. The unlikeable man that a woman loves. It is EVERYWHERE. It’s in the Chinese sitcom I’ve been watching. It is in the very existence of KANK and the fact that so many people like it enough to watch it twice. It is cross cultural, universal. The world loves GROUCHY MEN and the women who love them!

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    • Yes! Supposedly the French court version of B &B was written partly as a lesson to good little girls to be patient with their husbands. He may grimace and glower, but down deep he is a Prince who loves you.

      On Wed, May 26, 2021 at 9:10 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I thinking more about it, and the deeper message is that things are not as they first appear. Kind of like a warning to not trust your first impressions. And that warning is echoed in other fairy tales, like Hansel & Gretel. We have three books of Kauai tales, and a great many of those stories repeat the warning. And while Beauty and the Beast has the grouchy man with a heart of gold, there are other tales of the beautiful woman who turns into a monster. Not so many tales about the grouchy women with hearts of gold though.

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  4. I always liked Fern Flower tale. According to the myth, the Fern flower blooms only once a year (on the eve of the summer solstice). It’s very hard to find, but it will bring a lot of wealth to the one who will find and pick it. But it’s tricky because you can’t share this wealth with others.
    The fairy tale goes like this: There was a poor boy who heard the story about Fern Flower. Every year on the eve of the summer solstice he went to the forest to find the flower. Years pass, he is already adult but still haven’t found it. But then one year he is lucky and picks it. Knowing he can’t share the money, he goes to the city to enjoy being rich. After some years of lavish life he starts missing his poor family. He visits them but nobody recognize him. They tell him: How you can be our son? He would never let us life in this misery. Year after year he returns to see his parents and brother , and everytime they are sicker and poorer. Finally one year he decides to risk and share his wealth with the family, only to find all of them dead. Distraught and heartbroken he doesn’t want to live anymore. The soil under his feet opens, he falls inside and dies together with the Fern lower.

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    • This is another DARK one!!!! And also, weirdly appropriate metaphor for today’s immigrants. You can go away and make loads of money, but you can’t send it back home. So what value does it really have?

      On Thu, May 27, 2021 at 6:30 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. As a little kid I always enjoyed the Akbar Birbal tales and they might still be some of my favorites. Akbar was the king we all know and Birbal was his favorite courtier. In the stories, Birbal always used his wit, humor, and intelligence to solve problems or just interact with the king.

    For example, this is a silly one, but one day Akbar drew a line in the sand and asked whether anyone could make the line shorter without erasing any part of it. Everyone was puzzled. Birbal came up and drew a longer line next to Akbar’s line, making Akbar’s line shorter without erasing any part of it.

    Here are examples of some more. https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/10-best-akbar-birbal-short-stories-with-moral-for-kids/?amp

    What I loved about these tales growing up was that they taught me to (1) think outside of the box, (2) question everything, including authority if what they are saying doesn’t seem right, and (3) always have a sense of humor because it helps you see and laugh at the absurdity in many situations and also keeps you sane, and finally, (4) your brain is your most powerful asset so nurture it, always take care of it, give it room to flourish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh! I saw that “shorter line” problem in a movie! I think an older Tamil film. Completely stumped me. So glad to finally know the answer.

      On Thu, May 27, 2021 at 8:54 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Oh, I was just reminded that another one of my other favorite folk tales was the story of Sheherezad – the narrator of 1001 Nights/Arabian Nights! I absolutely adored her! The king – an awful man who was angry that his first wife for commiting adultry (despite engaging in adultry himself) – married a virgin every night, had sex with her, and killed her the next day. Everyone was powerless against the king’s orders. So, Sheherezad offers to marry the king. Her father, the Vizier, vehemently objects because he is scared of her life, but she insists so that she can protect the rest of the women from being subject to the king’s cruelty. She is always described as someone who was independent, intellegent, charismatic, and well versed in literature, art, and philisophy. The first night, she asks if she can tell her little sister a bed time story and say her final goodbye. She starts the story and stops at the break of dawn just as the story gets intriguing. The awful king spares her life because he wants to hear what happens next. Every day for the next 1000 days she does the same thing. The stories are also cleverly told. In most of the stories, Sheherezad includes the prevelant misogyny of its time displaying the hypocricy of men. Eventually the king decides not to kill her or marry any more women and she becomes the queen.

    To me, Sheherezad was always such a brilliant heroine. She worked within the cirsumstances of her time to protect other women and stop the king’s cruelty. She didn’t love the king, but she married him anyways. She stood up to her father, another man with a lot of power. She didn’t shy away from discussing misogyny in her stories, so the king could realize his own hypocrisy. And at the end, she became a powerful women who could influence the laws of the kingdom and continue to protect its women.

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    • Definitely. I was trying to remember earlier which of her stories I liked most and managed to overlook the framing device. You’re right, Sheherezad is one mightily impressive woman.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are a few I can think of. One in particular that highlights gay women is the tale of Princess Budur who is traveling with her husband to another kingdom. The husband is kidnapped so she has disguises as a man for her own protection. The king of the new kingdom assumes she is a man and asks her to marry his daughter, Hayat, so that she can take over and rule the kingdom. The first night Budur and Hayat caress each other but before Budur has to disrobe, she says that she has to pray and prays for so long that Hayat falls asleep. Eventually Hayat tells Budur that they have to consummate their relationship and show proof to the king. Budur then tells Hayat the truth. Hayat completely understands and promises never to tell the king. They then caress and kiss and embrace each other all night. Hayat uses some animal blood to prove that they had sex. This continues and Budur continues to rule the kingdom during the day and go be with her wife at night. Eventually the husband comes back and they basically become a throuple.

        The other one I can think of is the story of the Wiley Delailah. Delailah’s husband was the head of a city and dies. Two corrupt men ingratiate themselves with the king and con their way into becoming the new heads of the city. Delailah is rightfully angry and proceeds to become the city’s most infamous theif/con artist. Eventually she is brought before the king. There she returns everything she has stolen and explains that she did this to show the king that she can be just as scheming as the two male con artists but, if given the opportunity, she will use her skills for good. The king agrees and gives her the post as the head of the city.

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        • Oh, that is awesome! That’s what I wanted Rudramadevi the movie to do, but instead they went all lame and had them be “sisters” and marry other dudes.

          On Fri, May 28, 2021 at 10:30 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • Very interesting. I was trying to remember whether Princess Budur was in the compilation I read as a kid and I just overlooked the implications back then. So I looked up more details of the story. But while I remember one about jinns bringing together their “most beautiful humans” for the sake of comparison, the story that I remember goes on different, I think someone ended up making sweets.

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    • If you liked this, you’d probably love The Wrath and the Dawn by Renne Ahdieh. YA fantasy novel that’s literally a retelling of this, except it’s got some magical elements to it (the king, Khalid, is cursed to kill his brides), and it’s also a romance, so Sharzhad is still using her wits to stay alive, but is also falling in love with the king at the same time, since he’s not as inwardly angry in the original tale. It’s a two book series, and while it’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever read (some of the fantasy is confusing and wraps up too nicely and conveniently), the romance is absolutely delectable.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve always liked the story about Finn MacCool and how his wife Oona got him out of being flattened by the bully Cuchulain. These are the two heroes of two cycles of old Irish myth turned into giants in a folktale. Cuchulain in his original cycle was the indomitable warrior with one fatal flaw, like Achilles, while in this story he’s become the biggest, strongest, but not very bright giant. Finn MacCool was a warrior poet with a band of brothers who fought as much with his brains as with his sword. In the folktale version, he’s the clever trickster with the cleverer wife.

    Here’s a link to one version of the story: https://oklahoman.com/article/2573881/the-legend-of-knockmany-hill When Finn hears that Cuchulain is coming for him, Oona dresses him up as a baby and uses several tricks to make Cuchulain think that Finn’s baby is stronger and tougher than Cuchulain. She bakes cakes with griddles inside that break Cuchulain’s teeth (while giving Finn one with no griddle), tells him to try squeezing water from a stone (while Finn squeezes a rock-shaped cheese), until in the end Cuchulain gets so scared he runs away. The morals of the story for me: no matter how big and strong you are, there is always someone bigger and stronger; brains defeat brawn; babies are cute but should not be underestimated; a clever wife will defeat your most fearsome enemy and get the bully to do some housework in the process.

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    • Oh, that’s a nice story! And I must have heard some version of it? The water from stone/cheese bit stroke a chord. I can picture myself as a little kid hearing this whole thing and all I get out of it is cheese instead of stone.

      On Fri, May 28, 2021 at 5:40 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I think the brave little tailor (of “seven at one stroke” fame) may have used the same squeezing a cheese trick. If you’re familiar with the original Grimm fairytales, you may remember it from that story.

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