Another Fairy Tale Friday
and other linked up fairy tales!
There's something about the direction this blog has taken of late . . . Not only am I thinking of books, movies and music in terms of face-offs these days, I'm also improvising mash-ups on my guitar! It's the cheddar of it all, if you take my meaning. When two things which don't seem to have much in common can be taken together, they suddenly taste fresher. Like, you know, apples and cheese.
Anyway, here are two more fairy tales to look at together, for our usual Friday fun. They're kind of a predictable pairing, so this isn't one of my better efforts, but I'm glad to link up to Irena's meme again.
Princesses Behaving Badly: Not all fairy tale princesses are paragons. Here we have two of the worst. In King Thrushbeard, the princess is so scornful of her suitors and so harsh in her denunciations of them that her father is willing to marry her off to a poor minstrel--to teach her a lesson or to be rid of her, or both. We have another banished princess in The Swineherd, this time because her father catches her kissing the man he has hired to care for the pigs. It wouldn't matter if she were really in love with the swineherd, but she's just trading kisses for one of his clever toys.
Winner: King Thrushbeard--because she learns her lesson in the end, and that is always good.
The Tamers of the Shrews (LOL!): Here we have two royal suitors who must deal with two very unimpressed princesses, but their own methods have little to do with "killing someone with kindness." The hero of King Thrushbeard seems disproportionately cruel in giving the princess tasks he knows she cannot perform; and at one point, I wondered whether I should have paired this story with Bluebeard! The prince in The Swineherd sets out simply to test the princess' character; and she fails not because she is untrained for difficult work, but because her character is truly shallow.
Winner: King Thrushbeard--because we can argue that since this prince marries his princess at the beginning, his ultimate intentions are loving.
Disguise: Both princes try to pass as the poorest of peasants. The prince of King Thrushbeard pretends to be a minstrel--but later also disguises himself as hussar. As for the prince of The Swineherd . . . you can guess, can't you? =P
Winner: The Swineherd--because the contrast is both more dramatic and perfect enough so that the prince doesn't need to vary it as the occasion demands.
Endings: Polar opposites! King Thrushbeard has a happy ending for both our leads; The Swineherd ends very unhappily for the princess and tells us no more of the prince. But which one is more satisfying?
Winner: King Thrushbeard--because I'm happy that when the princess learned her lesson, she was given a second chance.
Wealth/Worth: Both stories ask questions about the true value of things. In King Thrushbeard, the princess goes from rags to riches, and regrets not having settled for the wealthy king with the weird beard when she had the chance. It is a little more complex in The Swineherd. The princess scorns a rare rose and an extraordinary bird because they're "real"--meaning, I suppose, not something the prince had to pay a lot of money for--but is willing to pay for new toys with her kisses . . . which consequently depreciate in value with each transaction.
Winner: The Swineherd--because it is one of the best cautionary tales ever written.
Allegorical Animals: The titles alone seem to say that animals are important. Thrushes are songbirds which are dear to poets, so it makes some sense for the prince in King Thrushbeard to come back disguised as a minstrel. Then there are the pigs in The Swineherd, who are meant to underscore how low the princess (and her ladies) really stoop when she puts a price on her kisses and they help her cover up the act.
Winner: The Swineherd--and certainly not just because I've been won over by a certain little pig from Groningen! =P
Shakespearean Stuff: For some reason, these two stories remind me of William Shakespeare's comedies--and not just The Taming of the Shrew! I realised how redeemable the proud princess of King Thrushbeard actually is when I remembered that the wise, witty Portia of The Merchant of Venice also takes the mickey out of most of her suitors. And the testing of the princess in The Swineherd is a little like the testing of Angelo in Measure for Measure--although prince-as-swineherd is probably closer to what we see in Henry V.
Winner: King Thrushbeard--because it's the closest we'll ever get to a Petruchio-Portia pairing and I never really cared for the Duke in Measure for Measure.
Movie Adaptations: First of all, let me thank the entire faerie realm that Disney never touched either of these stories! . . . Moving on now . . . There are several movies which retell King Thrushbeard--and they come in several languages. The universal appeal makes sense: it has a princess with a real character arc, a prince who does more than just show up at the end to kiss someone awake, and a happy ending. As far as I can tell, nobody has done anything with The Swineherd--possibly because the princess is totally shallow, the prince seems motivated by revenge, and the ending is awfully harsh. It's less Fairy Tale than Cautionary Tale, and unless you're a Horror fan, you don't watch much of the latter.
Winner: King Thrushbeard--because even I like it when the romance in a fairy tale wins over the horror.
* * * * *
King Thrushbeard vs. The Swineherd
Winner: King Thrushbeard
Winner: King Thrushbeard
Image Sources: a) King Thrushbeard illustration by Arthur Rackham, b) The Swineherd illustration by Henry Justice Ford