First off, it’s not spelled wrong. It’s just a different spelling and how Hans originally spelled it. So don’t get on my case about it having two Ls instead of one. Second off, this tale has several familiar elements that the Grimm’s Fairy Tales also held. So this is another story that is not entirely original to Hans.
Once upon a time there was a man named John and his father died. After his father died he cried and dreamed a strange dream. He dreamed of a woman with a crown on her head saying, “See, what bride you have won.” He woke, but the dream was not true. He stayed around for a while, but decided that he should leave. His father’s soul was in heaven and no longer around. On the way out of town he stopped at a church to offer a prayer.
He left his home and walked and walked. He heard all kinds of languages and went to places he had never heard of. John stopped at another church and took care of a graveyard for a bit considering that someone was also taking care of his father’s grave. He went inside the church after giving his shillings to a beggar. Inside the church he fell asleep. Some hours later there was a coffin in the room. He was not scared.
“He knew also that the dead can never injure any one. It is living wicked men who do harm to others.”
John soon realized there were two wicked men standing by ready to rob the dead man’s body. John told them they should not do so, even if the dead man had owed them money. He offered up his fifty dollars to the two men providing they would leave the dead man to rest. They agreed.
He left and went into the forest where he saw many fairies. In the morning he heard a man’s voice. He and the man decided to travel the world together. They liked each other very much. They met an old woman who was very old. She fell and it seemed her leg was broken. The travelling companion said not to worry. He took out some balm and rubbed it on the woman. Her leg was soon as good as new. The companion asked for the three great fern stems that she had collected as payment. They traveled on.
They saw mountains in the distance and traveled towards them. The two stopped at an inn. A showman was there putting on a show with dolls. One of the dolls suffered an attack from a dog and was torn up. The companion again used his balm to heal the doll, but afterwards the doll could move itself. In the night all the other dolls sighed because they wanted to be able to move by themselves as well. The companion was persuaded to use his balm on all the dolls. Then they danced. The companion asked for the man’s sword as payment, he agreed.
They finally made it to the mountains, where they found a beautiful town. Once they were there a swan died at their feet. The companion used his sword to cut off its wings. They continued on in the large city. There were hundreds of towers and a large palace in the middle of the city.
They soon learned of the princess who lived in the palace. She was wicked. Any man could make her an offer of marriage, but that man first had to play her game. The man had to guess three things. No man had ever succeeded. She had a garden behind the castle filled with the bones of men who had tried to win her hand. Her father the king was very upset over the hole thing. John wanted very much to try for the princess. The king did not want him to it saddened his heart. John insisted. The entire town mourned.
That night the traveling companion put on the wings of the swan and flew to the palace. There he saw the princess take flight. The companion had made it so the princess could not see him. He used one of the fern stems to whip the princess as she flew. She flew to a mountain and it opened up. The description of the mountain is not very pleasant.
“A thousand gleaming spiders ran here and there on the walls, causing them to glitter as if they were illuminated with fire. They next entered a large hall built of silver and gold. Large red and blue flowers shown on the walls, looking like sunflowers in size, but no one could dare to pluck them, for the stems were hideous poisonous snakes, and the flowers were flames of fire, darting out of their jaws. Shining glow-worms covered the ceiling, and sky-blue bats flapped their transparent wings. Altogether the place had a frightful appearance. In the middle of the floor stood a throne supported by four skeleton horses, who harness had been made by fiery-red spiders. The throne itself was made of milk-white glass, and the cushions were little black mice, each biting the other’s tail. Over it hung a canopy of rose-coloured spider’s webs, spotted with the prettiest little green flies, which sparkled like precious stones.”
It can all be yours for the low, low price of 1.2 million!
On this throne sat an old magician. The two danced together with enchanted things, but the princess was also there to receive instruction. The magician told the princess to think of her shoe the next day, the suitor would not guess. She flew home again and the companion whipped her again on the way home.
The next day the companion told John to say the princess’s shoe. He did so and was granted another day.
The princess flew back the next night. The companion whipped her with two fern stems this time. The magician told her to think of her glove. The companion relayed this to John, who guessed correctly again.
The third time the princess was whipped with three stems. She danced with the magician as usual knowing that if John guessed correctly the next day she could never do magic again. The magician flew back with her to the palace, while the companion whipped them from behind. The magician told the princess to think of his head. Once he was out of sight from the princess, the companion grabbed the magician and cut off his head. He gave it to John.
When the princess asked John what she was thinking of the next day he revealed the head in a bag. She had to marry John. They were married that evening, but the princess was still wicked. The companion gave John three swan feathers and some drops from his bottle. He told John to place a bath beside the bed and dunk the princess in with the drops and feathers three times.
As John dunked her into the water she turned into a black swan that fought terrible, but John continued on. After it was over she was once again a sweet princess who loved John.
John wanted his travelling companion to stay, but he said he could not. He had paid his debt back and it was time to go. The travelling companion told John that he was the dead man whose body he had defended. The companion left to go on beyond and John lived a happy life.
This magician’s house sounds like an absolutely terrible place. The cushion was made of mice biting each other’s tails. That sounds just awful. It sounds like some goth kid’s dream house. I wonder if Hans tried to think of the most terrible things he could think of when describing where the magician lived. He left out the bog of eternal stench, that would have been a nice touch to all the spiders and snakes.
I pose you a question, isn’t it kind of wrong that the princess changed so much? I get that being a murderess is bad; it’s bad, but she got changed from this evil murderess to this sweet little thing. Does the change to a sweet little thing cancel out all the murders she caused to happen before? She’s still guilty right? Or was she considered possessed and not acting of her own accord? How did she strike up this arrangement with the magician in the first place? Were they really just dancing? If she flew all the way there to dance, she might as well make a booty call while she’s there.
Should you change yourself so fundamentally for a relationship? You know, I don’t think you should. Sure, you may be a terrible person, but I don’t think you should lose all of that for a relationship. I’m not saying being evil is cool, I’m saying that being a jerk is part of who you are. You can learn to be a better person and to be nicer and reform yourself, but you’re never entirely going to get away from all that you once were, and honestly, you shouldn’t. Stopping the puppy kicking habit is step one, but maybe you should still keep that cynicism you have. Perhaps it served you well in the past.
My point is that you shouldn’t change everything about yourself for another person. If you do that, what’s left of you? This princess becomes and entirely freaking different person after her weird bath. Is that right? I think it’s selfish of someone to want a partner to change so drastically in a relationship. Is this girl a Stepford Wife from then on?
Honestly, the woman should have went to prison or have been executed. I don’t think she deserves to be married and have a family. She caused so many men to go to their deaths; she doesn’t deserve to have a life.
Death is a big theme in this story. John’s father dies. People take care of his grave. John takes care of strangers’ graves. John defends the dead man’s body. He says he is not scared of the dead, only of the living who are evil.
Hans seems to have a more compassionate approach to death than the Grimm’s Fairy Tales held. He speaks of John weeping over his father’s death. John gives away all of his money so that the travelling companion’s body will not be desecrated. John respects death. He respects what he believes is the vessel that once held an eternal soul. I didn’t put all of the God in my summary, but this story holds a lot of religious references. John is quite the religious guy. He believes that he will win the princess because of his faith. He knows he is protected by God.
He is protected. His companion is the spirit of the dead man. The man even goes as far as to have wings much like how angels have wings. The travelling companion is an agent of God in the case of this story. He protects John.
There is evil in this story and it’s a real sinister type of evil. This princess not only orders men killed, she decorates with their bones in her garden. How sick do you have to be to do that? That’s just awful. Who would do such a thing? No one I know. Use what you have, I guess, but I don’t think anyone is going to be making any Pinterest boards anytime soon about decorating with human remains.
There is a good versus evil dynamic in this story. The good is very good, while the evil is just about as vile as you can get it, refer to the description of the magician’s house. The princess was somehow swayed to be evil. Maybe she was possessed, as it appears she was. The whole weird bath thing seems very much like an exorcism of sorts. Maybe she was possessed by the magician or some evil demonic cohort of his and she then carried out the magician’s bidding to practice evil among the men of the country.
John comes and is this stark contrast to the princess. She looks good, but she isn’t good. John is good all around. John seems very simple in his beliefs in God. He knows that if he’s good things will turn out for him. That takes a lot of faith. God does rescue him and protect him in the form of the travelling companion.
John has an unfailing faith and a healthy respect for death. Despite the fact that he seems a little oblivious and too sweet, he’s one heck of a protagonist. He goes out into the world knowing that he will be safe as long as he relies on God. That takes some real dedication.
I’m going to whip you!
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Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian