King Grisly-Beard

“King Grisly-Beard”

by The Brothers Grimm

English translation by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes


 

A great king of a land far away in the East had a daughter who was very beautiful, but so proud, and haughty, and conceited, that none of the princes who came to ask her in marriage was good enough for her, and she only made sport of them.

Once upon a time the king held a great feast, and asked thither all her suitors; and they all sat in a row, ranged according to their rank—kings, and princes, and dukes, and earls, and counts, and barons, and knights. Then the princess came in, and as she passed by them she had something spiteful to say to every one. The first was too fat: ‘He’s as round as a tub,’ said she. The next was too tall: ‘What a maypole!’ said she. The next was too short: ‘What a dumpling!’ said she. The fourth was too pale, and she called him ‘Wallface.’ The fifth was too red, so she called him ‘Coxcomb.’ The sixth was not straight enough; so she said he was like a green stick, that had been laid to dry over a baker’s oven. And thus she had some joke to crack upon every one: but she laughed more than all at a good king who was there. ‘Look at him,’ said she; ‘his beard is like an old mop; he shall be called Grisly-beard.’ So the king got the nickname of Grisly-beard.

But the old king was very angry when he saw how his daughter behaved, and how she ill-treated all his guests; and he vowed that, willing or unwilling, she should marry the first man, be he prince or beggar, that came to the door.

Two days after there came by a travelling fiddler, who began to play under the window and beg alms; and when the king heard him, he said, ‘Let him come in.’ So they brought in a dirty-looking fellow; and when he had sung before the king and the princess, he begged a boon. Then the king said, ‘You have sung so well, that I will give you my daughter for your wife.’ The princess begged and prayed; but the king said, ‘I have sworn to give you to the first comer, and I will keep my word.’ So words and tears were of no avail; the parson was sent for, and she was married to the fiddler. When this was over the king said, ‘Now get ready to go—you must not stay here—you must travel on with your husband.’

Then the fiddler went his way, and took her with him, and they soon came to a great wood. ‘Pray,’ said she, ‘whose is this wood?’ ‘It belongs to King Grisly-beard,’ answered he; ‘hadst thou taken him, all had been thine.’ ‘Ah! unlucky wretch that I am!’ sighed she; ‘would that I had married King Grisly-beard!’ Next they came to some fine meadows. ‘Whose are these beautiful green meadows?’ said she. ‘They belong to King Grisly-beard, hadst thou taken him, they had all been thine.’ ‘Ah! unlucky wretch that I am!’ said she; ‘would that I had married King Grisly-beard!’

Then they came to a great city. ‘Whose is this noble city?’ said she. ‘It belongs to King Grisly-beard; hadst thou taken him, it had all been thine.’ ‘Ah! wretch that I am!’ sighed she; ‘why did I not marry King Grisly-beard?’ ‘That is no business of mine,’ said the fiddler: ‘why should you wish for another husband? Am not I good enough for you?’

At last they came to a small cottage. ‘What a paltry place!’ said she; ‘to whom does that little dirty hole belong?’ Then the fiddler said, ‘That is your and my house, where we are to live.’ ‘Where are your servants?’ cried she. ‘What do we want with servants?’ said he; ‘you must do for yourself whatever is to be done. Now make the fire, and put on water and cook my supper, for I am very tired.’ But the princess knew nothing of making fires and cooking, and the fiddler was forced to help her. When they had eaten a very scanty meal they went to bed; but the fiddler called her up very early in the morning to clean the house. Thus they lived for two days: and when they had eaten up all there was in the cottage, the man said, ‘Wife, we can’t go on thus, spending money and earning nothing. You must learn to weave baskets.’ Then he went out and cut willows, and brought them home, and she began to weave; but it made her fingers very sore. ‘I see this work won’t do,’ said he: ‘try and spin; perhaps you will do that better.’ So she sat down and tried to spin; but the threads cut her tender fingers till the blood ran. ‘See now,’ said the fiddler, ‘you are good for nothing; you can do no work: what a bargain I have got! However, I’ll try and set up a trade in pots and pans, and you shall stand in the market and sell them.’ ‘Alas!’ sighed she, ‘if any of my father’s court should pass by and see me standing in the market, how they will laugh at me!’

But her husband did not care for that, and said she must work, if she did not wish to die of hunger. At first the trade went well; for many people, seeing such a beautiful woman, went to buy her wares, and paid their money without thinking of taking away the goods. They lived on this as long as it lasted; and then her husband bought a fresh lot of ware, and she sat herself down with it in the corner of the market; but a drunken soldier soon came by, and rode his horse against her stall, and broke all her goods into a thousand pieces. Then she began to cry, and knew not what to do. ‘Ah! what will become of me?’ said she; ‘what will my husband say?’ So she ran home and told him all. ‘Who would have thought you would have been so silly,’ said he, ‘as to put an earthenware stall in the corner of the market, where everybody passes? but let us have no more crying; I see you are not fit for this sort of work, so I have been to the king’s palace, and asked if they did not want a kitchen-maid; and they say they will take you, and there you will have plenty to eat.’

Thus the princess became a kitchen-maid, and helped the cook to do all the dirtiest work; but she was allowed to carry home some of the meat that was left, and on this they lived.

She had not been there long before she heard that the king’s eldest son was passing by, going to be married; and she went to one of the windows and looked out. Everything was ready, and all the pomp and brightness of the court was there. Then she bitterly grieved for the pride and folly which had brought her so low. And the servants gave her some of the rich meats, which she put into her basket to take home.

All on a sudden, as she was going out, in came the king’s son in golden clothes; and when he saw a beautiful woman at the door, he took her by the hand, and said she should be his partner in the dance; but she trembled for fear, for she saw that it was King Grisly-beard, who was making sport of her. However, he kept fast hold, and led her in; and the cover of the basket came off, so that the meats in it fell about. Then everybody laughed and jeered at her; and she was so abashed, that she wished herself a thousand feet deep in the earth. She sprang to the door to run away; but on the steps King Grisly-beard overtook her, and brought her back and said, ‘Fear me not! I am the fiddler who has lived with you in the hut. I brought you there because I really loved you. I am also the soldier that overset your stall. I have done all this only to cure you of your silly pride, and to show you the folly of your ill-treatment of me. Now all is over: you have learnt wisdom, and it is time to hold our marriage feast.’

Then the chamberlains came and brought her the most beautiful robes; and her father and his whole court were there already, and welcomed her home on her marriage. Joy was in every face and every heart. The feast was grand; they danced and sang; all were merry; and I only wish that you and I had been of the party.

“Briar Rose” — The Brothers Grimm

“Briar Rose” by The Brothers Grimm

(English translation by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes)

A king and queen once upon a time reigned in a country a great way off, where there were in those days fairies. Now this king and queen had plenty of money, and plenty of fine clothes to wear, and plenty of good things to eat and drink, and a coach to ride out in every day: but though they had been married many years they had no children, and this grieved them very much indeed. But one day as the queen was walking by the side of the river, at the bottom of the garden, she saw a poor little fish, that had thrown itself out of the water, and lay gasping and nearly dead on the bank. Then the queen took pity on the little fish, and threw it back again into the river; and before it swam away it lifted its head out of the water and said, ‘I know what your wish is, and it shall be fulfilled, in return for your kindness to me—you will soon have a daughter.’ What the little fish had foretold soon came to pass; and the queen had a little girl, so very beautiful that the king could not cease looking on it for joy, and said he would hold a great feast and make merry, and show the child to all the land. So he asked his kinsmen, and nobles, and friends, and neighbours. But the queen said, ‘I will have the fairies also, that they might be kind and good to our little daughter.’ Now there were thirteen fairies in the kingdom; but as the king and queen had only twelve golden dishes for them to eat out of, they were forced to leave one of the fairies without asking her. So twelve fairies came, each with a high red cap on her head, and red shoes with high heels on her feet, and a long white wand in her hand: and after the feast was over they gathered round in a ring and gave all their best gifts to the little princess. One gave her goodness, another beauty, another riches, and so on till she had all that was good in the world.

Just as eleven of them had done blessing her, a great noise was heard in the courtyard, and word was brought that the thirteenth fairy was come, with a black cap on her head, and black shoes on her feet, and a broomstick in her hand: and presently up she came into the dining-hall. Now, as she had not been asked to the feast she was very angry, and scolded the king and queen very much, and set to work to take her revenge. So she cried out, ‘The king’s daughter shall, in her fifteenth year, be wounded by a spindle, and fall down dead.’ Then the twelfth of the friendly fairies, who had not yet given her gift, came forward, and said that the evil wish must be fulfilled, but that she could soften its mischief; so her gift was, that the king’s daughter, when the spindle wounded her, should not really die, but should only fall asleep for a hundred years.

However, the king hoped still to save his dear child altogether from the threatened evil; so he ordered that all the spindles in the kingdom should be bought up and burnt. But all the gifts of the first eleven fairies were in the meantime fulfilled; for the princess was so beautiful, and well behaved, and good, and wise, that everyone who knew her loved her.

It happened that, on the very day she was fifteen years old, the king and queen were not at home, and she was left alone in the palace. So she roved about by herself, and looked at all the rooms and chambers, till at last she came to an old tower, to which there was a narrow staircase ending with a little door. In the door there was a golden key, and when she turned it the door sprang open, and there sat an old lady spinning away very busily. ‘Why, how now, good mother,’ said the princess; ‘what are you doing there?’ ‘Spinning,’ said the old lady, and nodded her head, humming a tune, while buzz! went the wheel. ‘How prettily that little thing turns round!’ said the princess, and took the spindle and began to try and spin. But scarcely had she touched it, before the fairy’s prophecy was fulfilled; the spindle wounded her, and she fell down lifeless on the ground.

However, she was not dead, but had only fallen into a deep sleep; and the king and the queen, who had just come home, and all their court, fell asleep too; and the horses slept in the stables, and the dogs in the court, the pigeons on the house-top, and the very flies slept upon the walls. Even the fire on the hearth left off blazing, and went to sleep; the jack stopped, and the spit that was turning about with a goose upon it for the king’s dinner stood still; and the cook, who was at that moment pulling the kitchen-boy by the hair to give him a box on the ear for something he had done amiss, let him go, and both fell asleep; the butler, who was slyly tasting the ale, fell asleep with the jug at his lips: and thus everything stood still, and slept soundly.

A large hedge of thorns soon grew round the palace, and every year it became higher and thicker; till at last the old palace was surrounded and hidden, so that not even the roof or the chimneys could be seen. But there went a report through all the land of the beautiful sleeping Briar Rose (for so the king’s daughter was called): so that, from time to time, several kings’ sons came, and tried to break through the thicket into the palace. This, however, none of them could ever do; for the thorns and bushes laid hold of them, as it were with hands; and there they stuck fast, and died wretchedly.

After many, many years there came a king’s son into that land: and an old man told him the story of the thicket of thorns; and how a beautiful palace stood behind it, and how a wonderful princess, called Briar Rose, lay in it asleep, with all her court. He told, too, how he had heard from his grandfather that many, many princes had come, and had tried to break through the thicket, but that they had all stuck fast in it, and died. Then the young prince said, ‘All this shall not frighten me; I will go and see this Briar Rose.’ The old man tried to hinder him, but he was bent upon going.

Now that very day the hundred years were ended; and as the prince came to the thicket he saw nothing but beautiful flowering shrubs, through which he went with ease, and they shut in after him as thick as ever. Then he came at last to the palace, and there in the court lay the dogs asleep; and the horses were standing in the stables; and on the roof sat the pigeons fast asleep, with their heads under their wings. And when he came into the palace, the flies were sleeping on the walls; the spit was standing still; the butler had the jug of ale at his lips, going to drink a draught; the maid sat with a fowl in her lap ready to be plucked; and the cook in the kitchen was still holding up her hand, as if she was going to beat the boy.

Then he went on still farther, and all was so still that he could hear every breath he drew; till at last he came to the old tower, and opened the door of the little room in which Briar Rose was; and there she lay, fast asleep on a couch by the window. She looked so beautiful that he could not take his eyes off her, so he stooped down and gave her a kiss. But the moment he kissed her she opened her eyes and awoke, and smiled upon him; and they went out together; and soon the king and queen also awoke, and all the court, and gazed on each other with great wonder. And the horses shook themselves, and the dogs jumped up and barked; the pigeons took their heads from under their wings, and looked about and flew into the fields; the flies on the walls buzzed again; the fire in the kitchen blazed up; round went the jack, and round went the spit, with the goose for the king’s dinner upon it; the butler finished his draught of ale; the maid went on plucking the fowl; and the cook gave the boy the box on his ear.

And then the prince and Briar Rose were married, and the wedding feast was given; and they lived happily together all their lives long.

 

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” — Anne Sexton

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” by Anne Sexton

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
Her stepmother,
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred-
something like the weather forecast-
a mirror that proclaimed
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison. Continue reading ““Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” — Anne Sexton”

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden — Helen Grant

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, Helen Grant’s debut novel, negotiates the razor’s edge between childhood’s rich fantasy world and the grim reality of adult life. When young girls start disappearing in her small German village, eleven year old protagonist Pia sets out to investigate, armed with her powers of imagination–an imagination fueled by the Grimmish tales spun by her elderly friend Herr Schiller for the pleasure of Pia and her only friend, StinkStefan. Like poor Stefan, Pia is ostracized by the town after her grandmother spontaneously combusts on Christmas. She takes to playing detective, but as she investigates the girls’ disappearances, the illusions of her fantasy life cannot protect her. As the story builds to its sinister climax, it reminds us that most of the folktales we grew up with are far darker than we tend to remember.

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden makes its American debut this month from Delacorte Press.