There was a time when the Carland was filled with bogs. Now, the Carland was generally a safe place to wander about–as long as you were doing your wandering by day. It was only safe to travel through the bogs by night if the moon was shining. But the moon did not always shine over the bogs. She had other places to be. When she did not shine over the bogs, evil creatures like bogies would come out.
The moon was not unsympathetic to the bog travelers, however. When she heard about the bogies and the trouble they were causing, she pulled a cloak over her hair, and went down to the Earth.
Unfortunately, the moon fell into a pool and snagged her cloak on a hidden branch. She was trapped!
A brave man was travelling through the bog. The moon fought to be free but her cloak fell from her head. Light shone everywhere. The bogies and other night creatures were terrified by the moon’s light, and ran away. The man, realizing that he could see the path much better now, continued on his way safely.
The moon was not so lucky. During her struggle to get free again, the hood fell back over her head, and her light disappeared. The bogies and the other night creatures returned. Seeing her power, the creatures stood guard around the moon to ensure that her light would never shine again. They trapped her under a large stone, with only a single candle to keep her company.
The night was dark from that night on. People started to wonder where the moon went.
The brave man the moon had rescued remembered seeing a bright light in the bog, and went to investigate. A wise woman accompanied him, as she had the power to ward off the bogies if need be. Together, they found the buried moon, and under the wise woman’s instruction, the brave man freed the man.
The moon returned to her place in the sky. To show her thanks, she now shines brighter over the bogs than anywhere else, and the bogies and other evil creatures did not bother the Carland bogs any more.
About this Fairy Tale
This is a new fairy tale, compared to many fairy tales known today. Collected in 1871 by a woman named Mrs. Balfour from the North Lincolnshire Carrs in the Ancholme Valley in the U.K., many were sceptical about the story as it doesn’t have many fairy tale elements. Once Mrs. Balfour published her notes, the world at large accepted the story as a fairy tale. It was included in the More English Fairy Tales collection by Joseph Jacobs, an Australian-American folklorist.
The wise woman is sort of a random insertion at the end of the story–I think if I were to develop this tale, I’d have her a little more integrated earlier on, or at the very least, have her related to the brave man who travels the swamps. Then again, this is a faery tale, and such randomness is acceptable within the limits of the story.
There was once an emperor who had three sons. The three princes were adept at hunting. One day, the eldest went out into the forest and chased a hare. However, it was faster than the eldest prince and ran into a water mill. When the eldest prince followed the hare, he found that the hare was not a hare at all. It was actually a dragon in disguise! The dragon ate the eldest prince.
When his brother did not return, the second prince decided to go look for him. Alas, he came upon the same “hare” and the dragon ate the second prince as well.
The youngest prince was worried. Neither of his brothers had returned from their hunting trips. It was time for him to find them.
Once in the woods, he came upon the very same hare that was actually a dragon. But when the hare ran into the water mill, the young prince did not follow the creature. Instead, he gave up and looked for other game.
After satisfying his lust for the hunt, the young prince walked by the water mill once more. But this time, he met an old woman sitting beside the mill. She hailed him, and warned him about the dragon, and how it had eaten his brothers. The old woman was a slave of the dragon’s and she could not free herself.
The young prince was intrigued by the idea that a dragon could be roaming his lands, and also saddened by the fate of his brothers and the old woman. “Coax the dragon to tell you the secret of the dragon’s strength,” he said to the old woman. “I will return tomorrow and together we can get rid of this dragon once and for all.”
The old woman agreed that she would try to get the dragon to tell her the secret of his strength. Proud that he was to do right in the world, the prince returned to his castle.
It was not long before the dragon returned to the water mill. The creature was tired from its day of eating people and setting fire to villages, and so it did not take much buttering and praising for the old woman to coax the dragon into a good mood.
When the old woman asked the dragon the secret of his strength, the dragon bragged, “Oh, foolish woman, you think I would hide my strength in an obvious place like the stone you sit on, or that tree over there? No! My strength is in a far away kingdom, at the bottom of a lake. In this lake is a dragon, and in that dragon is a boar, and in the boar is a pigeon, and in the pigeon is a sparrow, and in the sparrow is my strength.”
Disheartened, the old woman fell quiet for the rest of the night, for it seemed an impossible task to acquire the dragon’s strength.
The next day when the dragon was away, the young prince returned to the water mill. The old woman told him what the dragon had said. The prince realized that to avenge his brother’s deaths and to save the old woman, he must travel to this distant land. But he could not do so as a prince–he would attract too much attention. He decided to disguise himself as a shepherd in search of work, and traveled across the lands to the distant kingdom.
He sought an audience with the emperor’s staff, and asked them if they had need of a shepherd. As it happened, they were in need of a shepherd.
“The sheep may graze anywhere except in the rich green meadows beside the lake outside the city walls. If the sheep graze in these meadows, they never leave. And many a shepherd has lost his life in those mysterious blue waters.”
The young prince knew at once that this was the lake that contained the dragon’s power.
The next morning, the prince bought two hounds and a hawk in the marketplace, and set out with his flock of sheep. He put them in pasture in the very spot he was told not to: in the rich green meadows beside the lake that held the dragon’s power. With his hounds sitting still at the edge of the lake, and his hawk watching everything fiercely from the branch of a nearby tree, the prince waded into the water and cried, “Dragon! Come forth if you are not a coward, and fight me!”
And from the depths of the lake rose the fearsome dragon. As soon as the creature was out of the water, the prince did not waste another second. He charged the dragon with his sword hidden beneath his shepherd’s attire.
The two engaged in a deadly battle until midday, when the sun was hot in the sky. “Prince, allow me to dip my head into the lake for one moment, and I would hurl you up into the sky.”
The prince laughed. “No, dragon, you give up too easily! If the emperor’s daughter were here, she would kiss me on the forehead and I would have the strength to throw you higher into the sky than you’ve ever been before!”
Tired from the fight, the dragon fell into the lake and did not bother the sheep nor the prince for the rest of the day. When the prince returned to the city with all of the sheep, the people whispered in wonder. No one had returned from the green meadows alive before.
The next morning, the prince set out with his sheep for the green meadows beside the lake. But this time, the emperor–having heard rumours of the mysterious shepherd–sent his two finest men to spy on the young prince. The same events happened as the previous day, and the emperor’s men were amazed. There was a dragon in the lake, and somehow this shepherd had kept the fearsome creature at bay!
At the end of the day, the emperor’s men reported back to the emperor. The emperor told his daughter that the next day, she would go with the shepherd and kiss him on the forehead when he asked.
The princess was not happy with this arrangement, for she feared for her safety and the safety of the poor shepherd. But her father assured her that everything would be all right, as the shepherd had survived two days already.
In the morning, the prince disguised himself as the shepherd and took his hounds and his hawk and his sheep out to pasture in the green meadows. There he found the princess, weeping. He assured her that everything would be fine, and all she had to do was kiss him on the forehead when the time came.
The prince lured the dragon out of the water, and the two fought until midday when the sun was hot in the sky. When the dragon asked to dip his head in the cool water for a break, the prince cried again, “No, dragon, for if the emperor’s daughter were here, she would kiss me on the forehead and give me the strength to throw you up into the sky, higher than you’d ever been!”
That was the princess’ cue. She ran up to the brave prince and kissed him on the forehead. The prince was embued with the strength of a thousand men and swung the blunt end of his mighty sword. The force of the blow sent the dragon flying up higher than the creature had ever been, and back down again, where he crashed into a million pieces on the shore of the lake.
But from the pieces of the dragon sprung a wild boar. The prince’s hounds chased it down and tore it open. From the boar sprung a pigeon, but the prince’s hawk hunted it down in no time. And inside the pigeon was the sparrow that was said to contain the strength of the dragon that had terrorized his lands.
“Do not hurt me!” said the sparrow. “Your brothers are alive! I know where they are! Near your father’s castle is a water mill, and beneath the mill is a prison barred with iron gates. Beside the prison is a tree. The prison gates can be opened by striking the iron bars when three slender twigs hit the roots of the tree.”
With no time to lose, the prince set out for his homeland. The princess followed him, as did her father and her father’s men, as they were all excited that the dragon had been defeated and anxious to see the prince’s family returned to him.
The prince did as the sparrow instructed and opened the cellar beneath the water mill. There were hundreds of people trapped, and the prince freed them all, including his brothers.
The emperor was so pleased with the young prince’s bravery that he allowed the prince to marry his daughter. When the young prince confessed to his new father-in-law that he was in fact a prince and not a shepherd, the emperor rejoiced even more. The young prince and the princess lived happily ever after, and there were no more dragon attacks reported.
About this Fairy Tale
A Seribian fairy tale, collected originally by A.H. Wratislaw. Andrew Lang included in his collection, The Crimson Fairy Book, in 1903.
I modified this fairy tale a little to shorten the narrative. In Andrew Lang’s version, the dragon fools the old woman twice into thinking that his strength lies in a stone, and then a tree. She kisses both objects and this amuses the dragon. I didn’t see a lot of point in this so I omitted this.
I also rearranged the ending of the tale–in Andrew Lang’s version, the wedding takes place first, but I figured the prince would be anxious to free his people first.
I am also unsure whether the dragon beneath the lake is the same dragon that ate the first two princes. It would seem so, but this is very ambiguous.
In a peaceful kingdom, there ruled a king and a queen. They were happy, except that they had no children and were unable to conceive.
One evening, the queen was in the royal garden and fell asleep. The queen dreamt of three fairies. These three fairies saw that her greatest desire is to have a son. They decided to grant her wish. The first fairy decreed that the son would be handsome. The second fairy decreed that the son would have every virtue a man could possess. The third fairy, who was mischievous in nature, decreed that the son would be born with the skin of a pig, and he would act as a pig, and he would remain a pig until he was married three times.
The queen thought nothing of the dream until weeks later, when she realized she was pregnant. Nine months later, she gave birth to a child–who was indeed a pig. The king wanted to throw the baby into the sea. But he soon decided that, having no heirs, having a pig for a son was better than having no son at all.
The pig-child learned to speak and walk but whenever he could, he acted very much like a pig. He loved to roll around in the mud. But the king and queen endured this behaviour because pig or not, he was their son.
When the pig was older, he expressed an interest in finding a wife. The queen resigned herself to find a woman who would take her pig-son as a husband. Eventually, she convinced a poor woman to wed her eldest daughter to the pig prince.
This poor woman actually had three daughters, and the three daughters were beautiful. The eldest daughter who was now princess-to-be did not like the idea of being wed to a pig, prince or not, and resolved to kill her soon-to-be husband on their wedding night. She was cold and distant to the pig prince before and during the ceremony and the reception.
After the wedding, when the filthy pig prince laid down in his bed next to his new bride, he was just falling asleep when he accidentally drove his sharp hooves into her breast. She died instantly.
Both the queen and the pig prince were upset about the fate of the new bride, as she had been lovely, if a bit unhappy for being forced to marry a pig. The queen convinced the poor woman to wed her second daughter–just as lovely as the first–to the distraught pig prince. With some reluctance, the poor woman agreed to the marriage.
Unfortunately, the second daughter met the same fate as her elder sister. In the night, just as the pig prince was falling asleep, he kicked his second bride in the stomach and drove his hooves into her, killing her.
The pig prince was even more distraught than before. He was sure that no woman would want him for a wife, and that his form was doomed to kill any woman that would at least bare to lie with him. The queen felt sorry for her soon and beseeched the poor woman to allow her youngest daughter to marry the pig prince.
The poor woman was extremely reluctant, but the young daughter said humbly to the queen that she would be happy to serve her country and marry the sad pig prince. She was kind to the pig prince before the ceremony, and during the lavish reception afterwards.
On their wedding night, the young daughter got into bed with her new husband. But the pig prince, instead of falling instantly to sleep, shed his skin, and revealed himself to be a handsome man–human. He told her that even though he was now a man, he would continue to wear his pig skin during the day, as this is what the public expected to see when they looked upon him.
It was not long before the young now-princess was with child. The queen was afraid that the new child would be a pig or a hideous half-creature. It was then that the princess confided in her mother-in-law that in fact, her son was now a handsome man. To prove it, she asked the queen and the king to come to their bedchamber that night so they could see him tear off his pig skin.
That night, the king and the queen arrived, and the prince tore off his pig skin to show his parents that yes, he was no longer a pig, but a man. Everyone was thrilled. The princess gave birth to a child, and the pig prince was known hence forth affectionately as King Pig, or the Pig King.
About this Fairy Tale
The Pig King is an Italian fairy tale. It was written by Giovanni Francesco Straparola in his collection, The Facetious Nights of Straparola. An extended story by the name of Prince Marcassin, written by Madame d’Aulonoy, was inspired by The Pig King.
In the original tale, the pig prince does not reveal himself to be human until after the youngest daughter and he have consummated the marriage. I find this very strange, as it is after marriage, not sex, that the “curse” is broken. My reasoning is that as a young man, he would want to appeal to the beautiful young woman as fast as possible, in the best possible form, as soon as he’s able. I suppose in the original he’s waiting to see how “nice” she’ll be. So I have allowed the prince to reveal himself on the night of the wedding, instead of “later”! In the original tale, the young daughter has her child first and then tells the queen and king that their son is now human, which does not make sense–they would probably suspect something is up if the baby is 100% human, no? Gah, I know, it’s only a fairy tale. But as a story, it should still make some sense.
The Violet Fox: Inspired by Fairy Tales
If you’re a fairy tale enthusiast like me, you’ll enjoy my YA fantasy novel, The Violet Fox. Part Cinderella, part Robin Hood, and a whole lot of romance and adventure. Read a sample chapter, or learn more about the book here.
Do you know of any fairy tales that the rest of the world doesn’t? What are your favourite fairy tales?