Monday, May 21, 2012

King Thrushbeard

This one...not really sure what to say about it, honestly. It's mostly a case of some greedy, rude princess needing to learn a lesson, and the supposed 'one true love' taking that education into his own hands, regardless of how rude, hypocritical or even downright damaging it can be to aforementioned maiden, and her upbringing, of course, is never blamed for it.

King Thrushbeard

A king had a daughter who was beautiful beyond all measure,
but so proud and haughty withal that no suitor was good
enough for her.  She sent away one after the other, and
ridiculed them as well.
Of course, it's never mentioned that bad parenting is most likely to blame for it.
Granted, who exactly is going to approach a king and queen and tell them their 
kid is a brat? 
 Once the king made a great feast and invited thereto, from far
and near, all the young men likely to marry. They were all
marshaled in a row according to their rank and standing.  First
came the kings, then the grand-dukes, then the princes, the
earls, the barons, and the gentry. 
 The grand-dukes come before the princes? I was under the impression that Prince
was directly below King, seeing as how the Prince will eventually be king and the
Grand-Duke will not unless there are dire circumstances. 
Then the king's daughter was led through the ranks, but to each 
one she had some objection to make.  One was too fat, the wine-barrel, 
she said.  Another was too tall, long and thin has little in. 
Firstly, someone needs to slap her. Secondly, long and thin has little in....
The third was too short, short and thick is never quick. 
Actually there is something to be said for decent girth...Ahem.
 The fourth was too pale, as pale as death.  The fifth too red, a fighting cock.
 The sixth was not straight enough, a green log dried behind
the stove.
I'm assuming this meant he was a hunchback or something, but this kind of brings
to mind some guy standing there with a pink ascot and glitter in his hair-what
with not being straight enough for her and all. He's just there to ogle the Princes.
 So she had something to say against each one, but she made
herself especially merry over a good king who stood quite
high up in the row, and whose chin had grown a little crooked.
Look, she cried and laughed, he has a chin like a thrush's
beak. And from that time he got the name of King Thrushbeard.
So everyone calls him that now, just because the bitchy Princess did? Man. Talk 
about being led around by the nose. 
 But the old king, when he saw that his daughter did nothing
but mock the people, and despised all the suitors who were
gathered there, was very angry, and swore that she should have
for her husband the very first beggar that came to his doors.
Because condemning your daughter to marriage to a filthy, penniless, probably
at least somewhat useless man who decidedly won't be able to take care of her
is what good parents do. 
 A few days afterwards a fiddler came and sang beneath the
windows, trying to earn a few pennies.  When the king heard him
he said, let him come up.  So the fiddler came in, in his dirty,
ragged clothes, and sang before the king and his daughter, and
when he had ended he asked for a trifling gift.  The king said,
your song has pleased me so well that I will give you my
daughter there, to wife.
"You came in here seeking a way to perhaps feed yourself for a day-now you get
to take another mouth that you can't provide for and will be stuck with until
you inevitably die of starvation! Lucky you! Did I mention she's a complete
snotty brat?"
 The king's daughter shuddered, but the king said, I have taken
an oath to give you to the very first beggar-man and I will keep
it.  All she could say was in vain.  The priest was brought,
and she had to let herself be wedded to the fiddler on the
spot.  When that was done the king said, now it is not proper
for you, a beggar-woman, to stay any longer in my palace, you may
just go away with your husband.
Bet he didn't even give the poor guy any money for singing. 
 The beggar-man led her out by the hand, and she was obliged to
walk away on foot with him.  When they came to a large forest
she asked; "To whom does that beautiful forest belong?"  "It
belongs to King Thrushbeard.  If you had taken him, it would
have been yours."  "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken
King Thrushbeard."
 Well, hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
 Afterwards they came to a meadow, and she asked again, "To whom
does this beautiful green meadow belong?"  "It belongs to King
Thrushbeard.  If you had taken him, it would have been
yours."  "Ah, unhappy girl that I am, if I had but taken King

Then they came to a large town, and she asked again, "To whom
does this fine large town belong?"  "It belongs to King Thrushbeard.
If you had taken him, it would have been yours." "Ah, unhappy
girl that I am, if I had but taken King Thrushbeard."
"It does not please me," said the fiddler; "To hear you always
wishing for another husband.  Am I not good enough for you?"
Dude...she's a princess. You're a beggar. She was forced to marry you against her
will. Don't expect her to be pleased with the situation. 
 At last they came to a very little hut, and she said,"Oh
goodness.  What a small house.  To whom does this miserable,
tiny hovel belong?"  The fiddler answered, "That is my house and
yours, where we shall live together."
 She had to stoop in order to go in at the low door.  "Where are
the servants?"; said the king's daughter.  "What servants?";answered
the beggar-man.  "You must yourself do what you wish to have done.
Just make a fire at once, and set on water to cook my supper,
I am quite tired."
YOU'RE tired? She's walked the same distance as you, buddy, and isn't used
to this sort of thing besides. This is completely uncharted territory for her.
A bit ago you were complaining about her not finding you good enough to be
her husband-well, yeah, you're a dirty beggar who's making demands of her the
moment he gets her in his house, even though she's probably as worn out as you!
Not the best first impression! 
 But the king's daughter knew nothing about lighting fires or cooking, 
and the beggar-man had to lend a hand himself to get anything fairly done. 
 When they had finished their scanty meal they went to bed.  But he forced
her to get up quite early in the morning in order to look after
the house.
As someone who is decidedly NOT a morning person, I deeply sympathize
with the princess here. 
 For a few days they lived in this way as well as might be, and
came to the end of all their provisions.  Then the man said,
"Wife, we cannot go on any longer eating and drinking here and
earning nothing.  You must make baskets."
Wife? You really can't even call her by her name? Rude.
....actually, what IS her name? It's never mentioned once! Does she just
not have one and only goes by what title she happens to bear at the time? 
 He went out, cut some willows, and brought them home.  Then she began to
 make baskets, but the tough willows wounded her delicate hands.
You can't just suddenly know how to do things like that, or have the ability.
It takes time to build up the endurance for certain tasks. Woodcarving, for
instance-when I started it, even after getting the basic knowledge of how to do
it, it still took a while (and several scars) for my hands to strengthen and
toughen up enough to handle it fairly well. 
 "I see that this will not do;" said the man.  "You had better spin,
perhaps you can do that better."  She sat down and tried to spin,
but the hard thread soon cut her soft fingers so that the blood
ran down.
....Just how soft and delicate is this woman's skin? Wet tissue paper would
probably hold up better than that! It's THREAD! 
 "See, said the man, you are fit for no sort of work.
I have made a bad bargain with you.  Now I will try to make a
business with pots and earthenware.  You must sit in the
market-place and sell the ware."  Alas, thought she, if any of
the people from my father's kingdom come to the market and see
me sitting there, selling, how they will mock me.  But it was
of no use, she had to yield unless she chose to die of hunger.
For the first time she succeeded well, for the people were glad
to buy the woman's wares because she was good-looking, and
they paid her what she asked.  Many even gave her the money and
left the pots with her as well. 
Dang. People were just straight up giving her money just because she's pretty?
Is the moral of the story "Pretty people get what they want" or something?!
 So they lived on what she had earned as long as it lasted, then the husband 
bought a lot of new crockery.  With this she sat down at the corner of the
market-place, and set it out round about her ready for sale.
But suddenly there came a drunken hussar galloping along, and
he rode right amongst the pots so that they were all broken into
a thousand bits.  She began to weep, and did now know what to do for fear. 
This is when the "You break it, you buy it" rule comes in handy. Also, if he's that drunk,
how is he balancing well enough to stay on a galloping horse? As a horseback rider 
myself, I can tell you that's no easy task when perfectly sober! 
 "Alas, what will happen to me?" Gried she.  "What will my husband say to this?"
She ran home and told him of the misfortune.  "Who would seat
herself at a corner of the market-place with crockery?" said
the man.  "Leave off crying, I see very well that you cannot
do any ordinary work, so I have been to our king's palace and
have asked whether they cannot find a place for a kitchen-maid,
and they have promised me to take you.  In that way you will
get your food for nothing."
Jerk jerk jerk jerk JERK. The corner areas are some of the most easily visible,
and thus ideal, of a marketplace! Gah. This guy needs to be smacked worse than her! 
 The king's daughter was now a kitchen-maid, and had to be at
the cook's beck and call, and do the dirtiest work.  In both her
pockets she fastened a little jar, in which she took home her
share of the leavings, and upon this they lived.
Doesn't leavings generally refer to drippings of fat and grease? They were LIVING
off that? That can't be good for their arteries. 
 It happened that the wedding of the king's eldest son was to be
celebrated, so the poor woman went up and placed herself by
the door of the hall to look on.  When all the candles were lit,
and people, each more beautiful than the other, entered, and
all was full of pomp and splendor, she thought of her lot with
a sad heart, and cursed the pride and haughtiness which had
humbled her and brought her to so great poverty.
Well, she clearly has learned her lesson, at least. Now if we can just teach the fiddler
how to treat a lady... 
 The smell of the delicious dishes which were being taken in
and out reached her, and now and then the servants threw her
a few morsels of them.  These she put in her jars to take home.
Hopefully they threw them carefully enough that she wasn't picking them up
off the floor, considering the time period these were written in I don't think
that'd be very sanitary. 
 All at once the king's son entered, clothed in velvet and silk,
with gold chains about his neck.  And when he saw the
beautiful woman standing by the door he seized her by the hand,
and would have danced with her.  But she refused and shrank
with fear, for she saw that it was King Thrushbeard, her
suitor whom she had driven away with scorn.
Wait wait wait...the King's son is King Thrushbeard? How the heck does that work?
If he's the king's SON, not the King, then he's a Prince, not a king! Why are
they calling him King if he's a prince? 
 Her struggles were of no avail, he drew her into the hall.  But the string
by which her pockets were hung broke, the pots fell down, the
soup ran out, and the scraps were scattered all about.
Her pockets were hanging by a string? What kind of pockets were they? 
 And when the people saw it, there arose general laughter and
derision, and she was so ashamed that she would rather have
been a thousand fathoms below the ground.  She sprang to the
door and would have run away, but on the stairs a man caught
her and brought her back.  And when she looked at him it was
King Thrushbeard again.
Dude. You just dragged her out in front of everyone against her will, 
humiliated her, and made her lose her and her husband's dinner. Leave her alone
 He said to her kindly, do not be afraid, I and the fiddler who has been 
living with you in that wretched hovel are one.  For love of you I disguised
myself so.  And I also was the hussar who rode through your crockery.
This was all done to humble your proud spirit, and to punish
you for the insolence with which you mocked me.
Because making someone suffer under the threat of starvation and mistreatment
of a jerk beggar husband with the impression that things will never get
better is totally how you show someone you care.
Also, if he was the fiddler the whole time-how on earth did he find the time
to pull this thing off? And didn't any of the other royalty or his advisors
or anyone have anything to say about him leaving off his royal duties to go
mess with a princess who snubbed him and subject her to horrible treatment, rather
than just saying "Wow, what a brat." and ignoring her comments? For a king/prince,
he has pretty thin skin. 
 Then she wept bitterly and said, "I have done great wrong, and
am not worthy to be your wife."  But he said, "Be comforted,
the evil days are past.  Now we will celebrate our wedding."
Then the maids-in-waiting came and put on her the most splendid
clothing, and her father and his whole court came and wished
her happiness in her marriage with King Thrushbeard, and
the joy now began in earnest.  I wish you and I had been there
So he clearly had this thing planned out from the very start, which doesn't bode
well for his mental health. Also, don't you love that last line? Almost makes the
story seem like it was told from the point of view of a stalker who wanted to be
at the party, but didn't get invited, so they're spreading the King's dirty laundry
around as revenge.
So, what do you guys think of this one, and how would you interpret it? 

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