Thursday, July 10, 2014

Grimm: King Thrushbeard

This story is part of the Brothers Grimm (Crane) unit. Story source: Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm, translated by Lucy Crane and illustrated by Walter Crane (1886).

King Thrushbeard

A king had a daughter who was beautiful beyond measure but so proud and overbearing that none of her suitors were good enough for her; she not only refused one after the other but made a laughing-stock of them.

Once the king appointed a great feast and bade all the marriageable men to it from far and near. And they were all put in rows, according to their rank and station; first came the kings, then the princes, the dukes, the earls, the barons, and lastly the noblemen. The princess was led in front of the rows, but she had a mocking epithet for each. One was too fat, "What a tub!" said she. Another too tall, "Long and lean is ill to be seen," said she. A third too short, "Fat and short, not fit to court," said she. A fourth was too pale, "A regular death's-head;" a fifth too red-faced, "A game-cock," she called him. The sixth was not well-made enough, "Green wood ill dried!" cried she.

So every one had something against him, and she made especially merry over a good king who was very tall and whose chin had grown a little peaked.

"Only look," cried she, laughing; "he has a chin like a thrush's beak."

And from that time they called him King Thrushbeard. But the old king, when he saw that his daughter mocked every one and scorned all the assembled suitors, swore in his anger that she should have the first beggar that came to the door for a husband.

A few days afterwards came a travelling ballad-singer and sang under the window in hopes of a small alms. When the king heard of it, he said that he must come in. And so the ballad-singer entered in his dirty tattered garments and sang before the king and his daughter; when he had done, he asked for a small reward. But the king said, "Thy song has so well pleased me that I will give thee my daughter to wife."
(illustration by Otto Ubbelohde)

The princess was horrified, but the king said, "I took an oath to give you to the first beggar that came, and so it must be done."

There was no remedy. The priest was fetched, and she had to be married to the ballad-singer out of hand.

When all was done, the king said, "Now, as you are a beggar-wife, you can stay no longer in my castle, so off with you and your husband."

The beggar-man led her away, and she was obliged to go forth with him on foot. On the way they came to a great wood, and she asked,

Oh, whose is this forest,
so thick and so fine?"

He answered,

It is King Thrushbeard's
and might have been thine."

And she cried,

Oh, I was a silly young thing, I'm afeared,
Would I had taken that good King Thrushbeard!

Then they passed through a meadow, and she asked,

Oh, whose is this meadow,
so green and so fine?

He answered,

It is King Thrushbeard's
and might have been thine.

And she cried,

I was a silly young thing, I'm afeared,
Would I had taken that good King Thrushbeard!

Then they passed through a great town, and she asked,

Whose is this city,
so great and so fine?"

He answered,

Oh, it is King Thrushbeard's
and might have been thine."

And she cried,

I was a silly young thing, I'm afeared,
Would I had taken that good King Thrushbeard!

Then said the beggar-man, "It does not please me to hear you always wishing for another husband; am I not good enough for you?"

At last they came to a very small house, and she said,

Oh dear me! What poor little house do I see?
And whose, I would know, may the wretched hole be?

The man answered, "That is my house and thine, where we must live together."

She had to stoop before she could go in at the door.

"Where are the servants?" asked the king's daughter.

"What servants?" answered the beggar-man. "What you want to have done, you must do yourself. Make a fire quick, and put on water, and cook me some food; I am very tired."


(700 words)





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