In honor of National Tell a Fairy Tale Day on the 26th (we’re celebrating a little early), we’ve compiled some fairy tales for you! We asked five editors to write a synopsis of one of their favorite fairy tales and then explain why they love it so much. To make things even more interesting, we had one editor write a fake synopsis. Most of the fairy tales are somewhat obscure. Can you guess which fairy tale is the fake one? There is a key at the end so you can check your guess and find out the titles of the fairy tales.
Fairy Tale 1
One of my absolute favorite tales recounts the tale of a young princess (whose name later becomes “Catskin”) whose grieving father schemes a plan to marry her in an attempt to replace his dead wife.
Catskin tells her father that she cannot marry until she has three dresses and a catskin coat made. Her father gladly complies and sends his workmen and huntsmen to craft the dresses and coat.
After receiving these gifts, Catskin collects a few trinkets and runs away. She covers herself in the coat, spreads soot on her face and hands, and disappears into the forest of a neighboring kingdom where a few huntsmen find Catskin and take her to their king.
To hide her identity, the girl says her name is “Catskin” and tells the king that she is an orphan. The gentle king gives her employment as a scullery maid in his kitchens. The king later holds a feast, and Catskin removes her disguise, puts on one of her dresses, and attends the celebration.
The king, not recognizing Catskin, dances with her. After the dance, Catskin puts on her disguise and returns to her post in the kitchens. She prepares the king’s soup for the night and slips one of her trinkets in the bowl. The king, upon finding the trinket, calls Catskin forward and asks how she came to put the ring in his bowl. She gives no clear answer and returns to her work. This charade happens two more times. After the third feast, Catskin’s true identity is revealed, and the two are married.
This fairy tale almost has a feel of Cinderella meets The 12 Dancing Princesses, but this tale is entirely unique because of its dark start and Catskin’s cleverness. Through deception, she is able to escape her father and start a new life, and through revealing her true self, she is able to find joy and love.
Fairy Tale 2
This fairy tale is just one retelling of many different versions of a classic. The story centers around a ray of sun that falls from the sky that is imbued with the power of healing. This power is used to save the kingdom’s queen, who is sick and with child. The queen is healed, but after the queen’s baby is born, an evil witch discovers the baby holds the power of the sun ray and steals the baby to keep the healing power to herself, locking the child away in a tower. The witch raises the baby girl as her own, and the girl grows up happy but ignorant of her past, and she yearns to leave the tower and see the world.
One day, a thief wanders into the tower and comes upon the girl, without knowing she is the lost princess. The thief agrees to help the girl escape while the witch is away, and the thief and the girl become close through a series of adventures.
In the end, the girl learns that she is the lost princess and that the witch stole her. But the witch finds her and wants to hide her away again. The thief sacrifices his life to save the girl from the evil witch, who loses her eternal youth and turns to dust. Thankfully, the girl is able to harness the last remaining power from the sun ray to restore the thief’s life. The thief then takes the girl back to her parents, and they live happily ever after.
I really like this fairy tale because of the relationship between the girl and the thief. They both learn how to grow and trust each other throughout their adventures, and, in the end, they both are willing to sacrifice for each other. It isn’t just about the handsome prince coming to save the damsel in distress; they save each other in their own way, and I love the reciprocity. This tale shows a stronger love than many other fairy tales, and that’s why it’s my favorite.
Fairy Tale 3
One of my favorite fairy tales is a story about a kind girl named Adelgunda. She works for a girl named Irmgard and for Irmgard’s father. Irmgard is terribly mean and constantly torments Adelgunda. Irmgard’s father often beats Adelgunda.
One day Irmgard takes Adelgunda into the woods to lose her so Adelgunda will come back late and be in trouble, but the two girls get lost in the woods. They end up asking for help from an old woman, who turns out to be a witch.
The witch says she’s going to eat both of them, but Irmgard convinces her to take Adelgunda and another servant who Irmgard will send back along with gold. The witch says Irmgard must come back herself — the witch intends to eat three people and get some money to boot.
The witch puts Adelgunda to work before she eats her, and Adelgunda works so well and is so kind that the witch starts to favor her.
When Irmgard returns, accompanied by her father, who wants to know for himself where the witch lives so he can kill her later, she brings gold and another servant, as promised.
The witch takes Irmgard, her father, and the gold. Because Adelgunda is a good worker, she tells Adelgunda and the servant that they may go back to the house and live, as long as they bring her a basket of the best mushrooms and herbs every week.
The witch puts Irmgard and her father to work gathering mushrooms. Irmgard and her father exact revenge by giving the witch poison mushrooms. When the witch eats the mushrooms after killing Irmgard and her father, the witch also dies. Adelgunda lives happily ever after.
I like this story because it combines the “kindness conquers over abuse” theme of Cinderella with the woods and the witch-drama of Hansel and Gretel. It also doesn’t hurt that Adelgunda gets out of the situation through kindness and hard work (as well as the witch’s fondness for slave labor she doesn’t have to feed) rather than through marrying some rich guy she doesn’t know.
Fairy Tale 4
The fairy tale I picked is rather grim. It’s a German fairy tale.
A giant is walking down the road one day when he’s verbally accosted by Death. The giant, who is apparently fairly foul-tempered, finds it offensive that Death tells him to stop walking, so he beats Death up. Death is lying there in the dirt, dying, worrying about how overpopulation is going to ruin the world (he obviously hadn’t read “A Modest Proposal”), when a good Samaritan stops and basically gives him an energy drink. Death says, “Hey, thanks! I’m Death, by the way. I can’t play favorites, so I’m still going to come for you. But I’ll send messengers first so that it’s not a surprise.”
The good Samaritan eventually falls into poor health but doesn’t worry about it because Death promised to send messengers. He gets better, and while he’s hiking one day, Death shows up and says, “Time’s up, buddy.” To which the guy replies, “What the heck! I’m not dead yet. What about those messengers?” Death answers that the sickness was the messenger, and the good Samaritan accepts his fate.
I mostly picked this fairy tale because I think it’s beautifully absurd. Death is a jerk — he should have given the good Samaritan more context for the messengers he was going to send — but it’s just a very strange, random fairy tale overall. I enjoy the irony of Death dying at the beginning and the idea that the other guy might have lived if he hadn’t stopped to help Death. I came across it several years ago around the same time that the last Harry Potter book came out and ended up reading through it because the title reminded me of “The Tale of the Three Brothers” from the The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Obviously they’re nothing alike, but I enjoy it all the same.
Fairy Tale 5
This modern fairy tale recounts the enlightenment of a smart, taller-than-average princess whose best and wisest companion is a magical, talking dog. Silky and golden and kind, the dog loved the princess and rarely left her side.
The princess becomes betrothed to the prince of a neighboring kingdom. But when the handsome and average-height prince notices the princess is taller than him, he threatens to leave. The princess fakes paralysis so that she never has to stand next to the prince, and the prince stays.
But soon after, the prince finds the princess is too witty. So she gives up her voice too, and the prince is very happy.
Then, because everything comes in threes, on the eve of her wedding, the prince demands she give up her dog. She is torn. So to ease her pain, in a quiet, lonely moment, the dog tells her, “Sometimes, you must give up everything for love.” And then he dies.
Only after she loses the dog does the princess realize what true sacrifice is. She wraps the dog in her wedding dress, bids the prince “good-bye,” and buries the dog at the foot of a white rose bush.
Later, a young knight appears by the gravesite bearing the banner of the white rose. He has silky golden hair and is very kind. He is also several inches shorter than the princess, but he doesn’t seem to care. They are content.
For me, this fairy tale beautifully illustrates the difference between stupid and purposeful sacrifice, as well as what is worth sacrificing for, because these can often be confusing, even for a smart and well-meaning princess.
This tale also strips the cliche that men need to be taller than women. In this story, the princess is actually taller than the entire royal family. It’s another hint for us to take stock of where we place our value and decide if it’s really worth it.
Was your guess right?
2. Tangled (Rapunzel)
3. Fake fairy tale
4. Death’s Messengers
5. The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet
What are some of your favorite fairy tales?