A childhood would not be complete without reading fairy tales. What with its stories of magic, bravery, the battle of good versus evil, and the idea of happily ever after with a Prince Charming, who would not be enchanted?
Fairy tales, being classics, have also been entertaining and educating children for centuries. Take, for instance, the re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, as proof of fairy tales’ timeless magic.
But more than the commercialized and popularized fairy tales we have grown up with, there are hundreds, if not thousands more that come from all over the world, each with its own charm, touch of mystery and adventure.
Here are some of the olden European fairy tales and their characters you might have only learned about today.
Illustration by John D. Batten, from “More English Fairy Tales” (wikimedia commons)
Background: English fairy tale from Joseph Jacobs’s “More English Fairy Tales”
The story: A lord had lost his daughter upon her giving birth. He had no other living relatives except for his granddaughter. But due to his grief, he did not give much attention to her, and even her clothes were nothing special. As a result, she was called Tattercoats. She grew up playing in the fields together with her friend, a gooseherd.
One day, the lord was invited to the royal ball, but went ahead without bringing Tattercoats along. The gooseherd suggested he and Tattercoats go to the ball and watch. As he was playing his pipe, a well-dressed man asked them for directions to the castle. When he found out that Tattercoats and the gooseherd were also going to the ball, he asked Tattercoats to marry him.
Flabbergasted, Tattercoats told the man that he should look for a suitable bride at the ball instead. The man said he would dance with her at the event come midnight.
With geese in tow, the gooseherd and Tattercoats did come to the royal ball. As it turns out, the well-dressed man earlier was the prince, and he declared to his father that she was the one he wished to be wed to.
As if on cue, the gooseherd played his pipe, and Tattercoats’ ragged clothes were magically transformed into magnificent robes fit for the occasion. The geese became men who held her train for her. The crowd burst into applause, and the wedding took place.
Mysteriously, the gooseherd was never seen or heard of again. Meanwhile, the lord, Tattercoats’s grandfather, went home and back to mourning until his dying day.
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Our verdict: Sounds a lot like Cinderella, eh? Notice the familiar fairy tale themes of “love at first sight”, the idea of a “Prince Charming”, and of a friend slash fairy godmother, in the guise of the gooseherd.