It’s not as terrible as you think it is.
Once upon a time in East India there was a town besieged by an enemy who would not leave unless someone gave him six hundred dollars. The people of the town said that whosoever could come up with the money would be the new town ruler, the burgomaster. A fisherman’s son was stolen by the enemy, but they gave him six hundred dollars for the son. The fisherman used the money he got by selling his stolen son to become the next burgomaster of the town.
The son was able to get away from his enemy and he ran into the mountains. There he found a castle. There were three princesses in the castle. They were entirely black and arrayed in black clothes, but there was a bit of white on each of their faces. They told him that he would be able to rescue them. For an entire year he should not look at them or speak to them. He should ask for whatever he wanted to have and they would do their best to give it to him.
After a while, he wanted to go and see his father. He took his coat, some money, and was told to be back within a week.
Immediately he was in East India without any travel. He couldn’t find his father in the fisherman’s hut so he started asking around. The burgomaster had made in mandatory that everyone address him as Mr. Burgomaster. Anyone who didn’t could be put to death. People kept telling the young man to shut up. They kept telling him that he wasn’t supposed to call this guy a fisherman. Finally, someone turned him in. The father happened to be there and the son told him that he was his son. The father recognized him and he did not get put to death.
He went home with his mother and father and told them all that had happened. He told them about the three princesses. The mother didn’t think it was a good idea to rescue them. She told her son to drop wax on each of their faces when he got back.
He went back to the castle, where he dropped wax upon the faces of the sleeping princesses. The princesses all turned half-white, but they woke up and they were angry.
“You accursed dog, our blood shall cry for vengeance on you! Now there is no man born in the world, nor will any ever be born who can set us free! We have still three brothers who are bound by seven chains–they shall tear you to pieces!”
There was a lot of noise and the fisherman’s son jumped out of the window, breaking his leg upon impact. The castle sank into the ground and no one had ever known it was there.
This story is a little strange. First of all, it’s set in East India. There is an actual region of India referred to as “East India,” but I didn’t find any reference to a large group of Germans ever settling there or trading in the area. Other European countries did trade somewhat heavily in the area, especially considering when you have something like the British East India Company. Why does it matter? Well, it turns out the word “burgomaster” is the English form of bürgermeister, which is a Germanic word essentially meaning a person who rules over a borough, a town, or a fortress. So we are talking about English settlers living in East India. The word sounds German, and is, sort of, but isn’t. Remember, English is a Germanic language.
This dude sells his own son and becomes a tyrant. The wife seems completely fine with it as well, but just as long as her son doesn’t marry three black princesses apparently.
Why does the castle sink into the ground? Why are these princesses mad that they turned half-white? What of the three brothers who were ready to kick some butt?
I have a couple of things I want to consider as far as this tale is concerned. I want to consider this idea of this boy randomly taking up with three strange women. I also want to consider the fact that the father was nothing, but then became something by selling out his own flesh and blood, that something was a jerk.
This boy is running away from his enemies. I’m assuming he’s white because of the whole burgomaster thing. So he’s running away in India. He sticks out like a sore thumb. He doesn’t know where he is going, but happens upon this castle in the mountains. There are three women there and they’re like, “Oh, we’ll give you whatever you want, just don’t look at us or talk to us.” That’s kind of strange right? Don’t you look at me! He goes along with all of this. There is never any thought in his head that maybe this isn’t such a good idea. When he sees his mom again, she’s like, “Honey, why in the heck are you listening to three strange women?” I don’t know why she wants to put hot wax on their faces, maybe she’s just kinky like that, but parents generally do know better and taking up with three strange women isn’t a good idea, especially if they don’t want you to talk to them or look at them. So, it’s a bit of a stranger-danger story.
Now, the dad sells his son. He sells him. The story is like, “Oh well he fell into the hands of the enemy and there just happened to be six hundred dollars that got passed around in the midst of all of this…,” no, the dad sold his son. Then he’s like, “Oh, I don’t know where my son is, but now I’m the burgomaster, you better call me Mr. Burgomaster, or off with your freaking head.” He becomes a tyrant in a very short amount of time. He becomes so terrible that he almost puts his son to death. He gets caught up in being terrible. His wife seems to go along with all of this. She’s happy. She doesn’t know where her son is at, but she’s got new shoes. Neither of them seem like very nice people. He’s putting people to death and she’s putting hot wax on people’s faces.
The thing to remember about this guy, is that he got so wrapped up in his power trip that he forgot what was important, family. He almost had his son put to death, almost.
I think someone got into the ergot-laden bread before they told this story.
burgermeister, burgomaster, castle sinks into sand, east india, father sells son, grimm’s fairy tales, grimm’s fairy tales the three black princesses, six hundred dollars, The Three Black Princesses
Grimm’s Fairy Tales