aka “The Three Little Men in the Woods”*
The Gist: A woman hates her stepdaughter because she is beautiful while her own daughter is butt ugly. The beautiful daughter is sent out into the woods in the dead of winter to find strawberries, and while searching she comes across a cottage with three little men/gnomes. The men reward her kindness and generosity with gold and the promise of marriage to a king. When the ugly daughter learns of this she goes to the little men, but her selfishness is rewarded with toads and the promise of death.
This story is a hodgepodge of other fairy tales: part “Mother Holle,” part “Little Brother and Little Sister.” I quite like this tale, especially the first half with the rewards (whatever story it resurfaces in). If you are going to read moral stories, the reward tales are the ones to read. Generosity, kindess and selflessness will support you from the rest of your life, if we are to learn anything with this tale. I can practically see a mother wagging her finger at her children and warning them against the dangers of greed. I mean, wouldn’t you rather spit out gold coins every time you speak instead of toads?
Pullman adds some humour and personality to his translation of this tale which I appreciated. The gnomes have quite a bit more to say, and they are more polite than the abrupt, bossy gnomes of Zipes’ version (traits which are fitting given the moral of this tale). Plus, I love the addition of the ugly daughter sleeping with a toad for company.
If you were to have something fall out of your mouth every time you spoke, what would you want it to be? Share your answers in comments.
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*story title in Pullman’s translation
- The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, 3rd Edition translated by Jack Zipes (Bantam, 2003)
- Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman (Viking)