Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lang's Fairy Tales: The Bronze Ring

Here is the short version of The Bronze Ring:

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A poor gardener's son loved a princess, and she loved him. The prime minister's son, however, wanted to marry the princess. The king sent the rivals to a faraway kingdom and decreed that the first to return would marry the princess.

The faraway kingdom was ruled by a very old king. With a witch's help, the gardener's son restored the king's youthful vigor and won a magical bronze ring. With the ring, he created a golden ship.

His rival, meanwhile, had lost his ship. The gardener's son gave his rival a new ship, but he branded his back with the bronze ring.

The rival returned home first and claimed the princess's hand in marriage. When the gardener's son arrived in his golden ship, the rival denied they had ever met, but the sign of the ring on his back revealed the truth. The princess recognized the gardener's son and married him gladly.

All was well until an evil magician managed to steal the bronze ring when the gardener's son was away on a journey. The magician used the ring to replace the golden ship with a crumbling wreck and to turn the cargo into cats.

In this ship the gardener's son barely managed to reach an island, and the island was full of mice. The cats began to devour the mice, so the queen of the mice offered to retrieve the bronze ring. She sent three mice to steal the ring from the magician, but coming back they dropped the ring in the ocean. A fish swallowed the ring, but the mice luckily caught the fish and recovered the ring.

Again in possession of the ring, the gardener's son restored his golden ship and sailed back home. He then killed the magician and lived with the princess happily ever after.


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You can read the long version of the fairy tale at Wikisource (the original story is appx. 3500 words long). I really like this story; it clearly has much in common with the story of Aladdin (especially the second half of the story), but it has some charming episodes that make it even better than Aladdin, in my opinion anyway. Lang's source was Carnoy's Traditions Populaires de l'Asie Mineure. My favorite part is definitely when the three mice go to retrieve the ring. Here is that part of the story as told by Andrew Lang:
"What is to be done?" said the Queen. "How can we find this bronze ring?" She held a new council, calling in mice from every quarter of the globe, but nobody knew where the bronze ring was. Suddenly three mice arrived from a very distant country. One was blind, the second lame, and the third had her ears cropped. 
"Ho, ho, ho!" said the new-comers. "We come from a far distant country." 
"Do you know where the bronze ring is which the genii obey?" 
"Ho, ho, ho! we know; an old sorcerer has taken possession of it, and now he keeps it in his pocket by day and in his mouth by night." 
"Go and take it from him, and come back as soon as possible." 
So the three mice made themselves a boat and set sail for the magician's country. When they reached the capital they landed and ran to the palace, leaving only the blind mouse on the shore to take care of the boat. Then they waited till it was night. The wicked old man lay down in bed and put the bronze ring into his mouth, and very soon he was asleep. 
"Now, what shall we do?" said the two little animals to each other. 
The mouse with the cropped ears found a lamp full of oil and a bottle full of pepper. So she dipped her tail first in the oil and then in the pepper, and held it to the sorcerer's nose. 
"Atisha! atisha!" sneezed the old man, but he did not wake, and the shock made the bronze ring jump out of his mouth. Quick as thought the lame mouse snatched up the precious talisman and carried it off to the boat. 
Imagine the despair of the magician when he awoke and the bronze ring was nowhere to be found! 
But by that time our three mice had set sail with their prize. A favoring breeze was carrying them toward the island where the queen of the mice was awaiting them. Naturally they began to talk about the bronze ring. 
"Which of us deserves the most credit?" they cried all at once. 
"I do," said the blind mouse, "for without my watchfulness our boat would have drifted away to the open sea." 
"No, indeed," cried the mouse with the cropped ears; "the credit is mine. Did I not cause the ring to jump out of the man's mouth?" 
"No, it is mine," cried the lame one, "for I ran off with the ring." 
And from high words they soon came to blows, and, alas! when the quarrel was fiercest the bronze ring fell into the sea. 
"How are we to face our queen," said the three mice "when by our folly we have lost the talisman and condemned our people to be utterly exterminated? We cannot go back to our country; let us land on this desert island and there end our miserable lives." No sooner said than done. The boat reached the island, and the mice landed. 
The blind mouse was speedily deserted by her two sisters, who went off to hunt flies, but as she wandered sadly along the shore she found a dead fish, and was eating it, when she felt something very hard. At her cries the other two mice ran up. 
"It is the bronze ring! It is the talisman!" they cried joyfully, and, getting into their boat again, they soon reached the mouse island. 









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