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Underworld Maiden

In the house where I live, I serve an old grey-bearded man. I am not allowed to speak. Only the old man can speak, and his grandmother, whose snoring can be heard throughout the countryside. But the rest of us must remain silent. Not even the oxen are allowed to...

Frog Friend in the Underworld

The queen did not wish to stay in the underworld, and who could blame her? It was a dismal place inhabited mostly by dragons, reptiles, and ravens. A fairy in the shape of a lion kept her imprisoned there. She asked me how she might escape, and I didn't know, so I...

Maid of Maleen

My mistress Maleen didn't want to marry her father's choice of a man. She loved a neighboring king's son, and he loved her. His father was all for the marriage, but not Maleen’s father. He was a mighty king, and he had to have the last word. Maleen refused to marry...

Mother Mansrot

I fell down through the glass mountain, miles into the earth. Why had my father built the glass mountain in the first place? And by what magic did it open up like a trap door and swallow me whole? An old fellow with a long grey beard came to meet me where I landed. He...

Hungry Dwarf

I'm hungry! Gimme some of that food. Now, gimme more. More, I say. More more more. Shameless? Why, you.... Ow! Stop beating me with that club, you man. Stop it, I say! Stop it! Okay, okay! I'll go back to my hole. He's gone now. Aakk. I'm bored. Why should I have to...

Hall of Prisoners

What I contain in my spacious vault has not been seen for a long time. My floors are covered in polished stones and inscribed with symbols that are known only to magicians. Hollow niches are cut into my walls, and they hold glass vases where people’s spirits are...

Pursuing Prince

Be careful what you pursue, because what you pursue might be pursuing you! I found that out when the stag I had been chasing, suddenly stopped running and turned into a big, lanky man. "Well," he said, "It's a good thing I've got you now. I wore out six pairs of glass...

Gnomes’ Flute

I hang on the wall in a chamber deep underground. I've been watching a man pace back and forth for so long that he has made the surface of the ground quite smooth. Finally he stops and says, "Why do you hang here, flute? No one can be merry here." Indeed. This is the...

Old Man Set Free from a Pit

For a long time, I lived in the bottom of a pit, outside a palace that had no doors. I had only a lantern to my name. I was sleeping one night when a king came along and scrambled down into the pit. He put his hand on my shoulder and woke me. "Are you a bird or snake...

Desert Tower Princess

I do not know what came over me, but when the emperor appeared at court, I loved him instantly. He was my eldest sister's suitor, so of course, I hid my feelings. But the emperor did not. He made it very clear that he preferred me. My father (who has an unnatural...

Peter the Hermit

The queen found me in my forest hut. She and her two little sons came to live with me, and, before long, she found my blood-stained shirts. I knew she would. She scrubbed them until they were white again and hung them out to dry. Now she wants to know why I come home...

Troll’s Daughter

The young man swims down to me in my glass palace at the bottom of the sea. My father, who is a powerful troll, has trapped me here. He has made everybody dependent on him—all the kings in the country are in his debt, and all the creatures of the forest rely on him...

Hide-and-Seek King

I put up a sign proclaiming that if any man can find my daughter within eight days, he will have her for his wife. If he fails, I will have his head. Needless to say, I have quite a collection of heads. No one will ever find my daughter. I've hidden her in my palace,...

Heartless Man’s Wife

I watched the old wizard wave his wand and turn my sisters and their lovers into stone statues. He spared me because I didn't have a partner. He took me into his cottage and made me his wife. He explained that he was terribly lonely in the deep wood. I asked him,...

Christopher the Smith

When I was in the bar having a few drinks, a few mates told me about the princess who lay dead in the church. The king needed a sentinel to stand guard over her. The men who did the watch were gone or dead by morning. In either case, they weren’t there to collect...

Dove of Heaven

Our beloved queen is imprisoned in a high tower—sealed in from the sun and the moon. The king has walled her in for seven years, without meat or drink. Walls built by kings don't keep us out! We visit her twice a day, and we bring her food from heaven. Many more than...

Liberated Queen

I woke in the garden and I saw blood on my apron where my child had been. The king was standing over me, blocking the sun. He was convinced that I had deliberately allowed my baby to be taken by wild beasts. He walled me into a high tower. I have not seen the sun or...

Spinning Daughter

My father has bragged to the king that I can spin straw into gold. Now the king has locked me in a room, and I must show that I can do it. I can’t spin straw into gold. It’s an impossible task! Why did my father insist on bragging about me? I didn’t want the king’s...

Lively-Stepping Soldier

After I got out of the army, I retained the habit of marching when I walked. Left-right! Left-right! It made me feel alive, marching down the road with my knapsack on my back and my sword at my side. Things have changed a bit since then. I've been put behind bars, and...

Metal-Haired Princess

He found the three of us doing what we do every day. We comb our hair. Mine is golden, and every strand that falls to the floor rings out like a pure metal. No one had ever heard the ring of my hair until the handsome youth came into my copper room. I told him that...

Prince Rainbow

The princess who is passing by the fountain is well-named "Fairer-than-a-Fairy." A fairy could never surpass her tender mortal beauty. She is surprised when I speak to her. I tell her that I am the son of a powerful king, and that the wicked old fairy Lagree...

Princess in the Marble Tower

My father doesn't give a whit for his country. He spends all his time on riddles! He has shut me into a marble tower with seventy windows, seventy feet from the ground. Now he has sent his heralds out to proclaim that whoever can climb the walls to my windows will...

Sea Tower Princess

One day, when I was standing on the balcony of my sea tower, the most extraordinary figure rose out of the water. He seemed to be some kind of a man, with a bluish face and long, sea-green hair. He swam towards the tower, and I was amazed to see that the sharks took...

Aged Maiden Toupette

I am locked in a tower. My guardian, the genius Kristopo, has put me here because I have refused to marry him. I will never consent. I only love Cornichon. The fairies raised us together, and we are intended for one another. However, terrible things have happened. The...

Princess Rosalie

I have been snatched by the Lord of the Air and imprisoned in a huge, unfamiliar palace. He is demanding that I marry him, but I will not, no matter how much he storms around. He has left in a fury. What is this? A pen is rising over the desk, and hovering. Now it is...

Jack the Giant-Killer

I've had it with giants. There was one who lived on St. Michael's Mount, off Cornwall, who was eighteen feet high and nine feet round. He would come over to the mainland and help himself to people's farm animals whenever he wished. I set out to destroy him, and I did....

Ali Baba’s Trapped Brother

I can't believe how much treasure there is in the cave! Bales of silk, stuff-brocades, all piled together, gold and silver in heaps, and loads of money in leather purses. There is more here than my ten mules can carry! I gather up as much as I can take, and then I go...

Brass Princess

A prophet told my father the king that I would have a son who would kill him. My father would not allow that prophecy to come true, and so he locked me in a deep brass prison, sunk into the earth. No one could see me there. Only the sun could see me, passing by the...

Fairies’ Child

The fairies have raised me and given me everything beautiful and rare, and yet they confine me in a tower, high in the air. I only know fairies. I have no other companions but a parrot and a dog who can both talk. Yet they can tell me nothing more than I already know....

Buried Maiden

My brother and I hosted a stranger who came to our door one night. We offered him food and an evening’s rest. He came to my room in the middle of the night and demanded my hand in marriage. I refused, and that is when I learned that he was an evil magician. He lay a...

Prunella

A witch stole me when I was seven years old. She wanted a servant, and now she is looking for an excuse to get rid of me. "Take this basket," she said the other day. "Go to the well, and bring it back to me filled with water. If you don’t I will kill you." Of course...

Imprisoned Maiden

I have been imprisoned in a castle that stands on a steep mountain. It is bolted by iron bars and chains, so imagine my surprise when all of a sudden a young man strode into my room. "How on earth did you get in here?" I asked. The youth replied that he was my...