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King Thrushbeard

A KING had a daughter who was beautiful beyond all measure,2 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.3

Once the King made a great feast4 and invited thereto, from far and near, all the young men likely to marry. They were all marshalled 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. Then the King's daughter5 was led through the ranks, but to every one she had some objection6 to make; one was too fat, "The wine-cask," she said. Another was too tall, "Long and thin has little in."7 The third was too short, "Short and thick is never quick."8 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."

So she had something to say against every 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. "Well," she cried and laughed, "he has a chin like a thrush's beak!"9 and from that time he got the name of King Thrushbeard.10

But the old King, when he saw that his daugher 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 beggar11 that came to his doors.

A few days afterwards a fiddler12 came and sang beneath the windows, trying to earn a small alms. 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."

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."13

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 forest14 she asked, "To whom does that beautiful forest belong?" "It belongs to King Thrushbeard;15 if you had taken him, it would have been yours." "Ah, unhappy girl that I am,16 if I had but taken King Thrushbeard!"

Afterwards they came to a meadow,17 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 Thrushbeard!"

Then they came to a large town,18 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?" At last they came to a very little hut, and she said, "Oh goodness! what a small house; to whom does this miserable, mean hovel19 belong?" The fiddler answered, "That is my house and yours, where we shall live together."20

She had to stoop in order to go in at the low door. "Where are the servants?" said the King's daughter. "What servants?"21 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." But the King's daughter knew nothing about lighting fires or cooking,22 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.

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 weave23 baskets." He went out, cut some willows, and brought them home. Then she began to weave, but the tough willows24 wounded her delicate hands.

"I see that this will not do," said the man; "you had better spin,25 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. "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-place26 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 wares27 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. 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 hussar28 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. "Alas! what will happen to me?" cried 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."

The King's daughter was now a kitchen-maid,29 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.

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.30 When all the candles were lit, and people, each more beautiful than the other, entered, and all was full of pomp and splendour, she thought of her lot with a sad heart, and cursed the pride and haughtiness31 which had humbled her and brought her to so great poverty.

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.

All at once the King's son entered, clothed in velvet and silk,32 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. 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,33 the soup ran out, and the scraps were scattered all about. And when the people saw it, there arose general laughter and derision,34 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. 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."

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."35 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 too.


SurLaLune's Annotations

1. King Thrushbeard: Also known as "Koing Drosselbert". The source of the tale is family Hassenpflug (Zipes, Complete, 731).
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2. Beautiful beyond all measure: Maria Tatar points out that in each Grimm edition of the tale, the behavior of the king's daughter "comes under unceasingly heavy fire" (30).
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3. She sent away one after the other, and ridiculed them as well: This tale follows in the tradition of the shrew, which was very popular during the Middle Ages (Zipes, Great, 668). One of the most famous shrew tales in Western Literature is Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

Valerie Paradiz sees the character of the princess, before her reform, as Auguste (Franz) Brentano, wife of Clemens Brentano, a folklorist and friend of the Grimms (63). Franz Brentano was "emotionally flamboyant and opinionated" (Paradiz 58) and not liked by William Grimm (Paradiz 59). Paradiz writes, "In 'King Thrushbeard' the heroine embodying good-and bad girl roles, starts out as an opinionated, willful princess who poses a challenge to the institution of marriage, just as Franz Brentano" (63).
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4. Great feast: This is the first of two feasts in the tale. Usually, in dreams a feast "foretells that pleasant surprises are being planed for you" (Miller 237). This may be what the king has hoped for, but it doesn't happen at this point in the tale.
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5. King's daughter: Throughout most of the tale the princess is referred to by this title. It is possible that the heroine is too attached to her father and could be seen as refusing to leave her father. Karen Rowe, when writing about "Beauty and the Beast" states that Beauty's refusal to marry "symbolizes the patient, sometimes problematic oedipal dependency of young girls" (215). It is possible that this tale shows a similar case as seen both in the rejection of the suitors and the description of the princess. In fact, Marie-Louise von Franz points out that " . . . the princess's inaccessibility and refusal of her suitors is evidently related to her father" (170).
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6. She had some objection: Marie-Louise von Franz believes that "King Thrushbeard" is a story about a woman coming to terms or struggling with a negative animus and this is shown by how she treats her suitors (170). An animus is masculine and "draws [a] woman away from life and murders life for her" (von Franz 170). The animus does this by making the woman feel separated from life so she does not participate in it (von Franz 170). See below for further criticism dealing with the animus.
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7. Long and thin has little in: Zipes translates this as "tall and thin, he looks like a pin" (Complete 192).
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8. Short and thick is never quick: Zipes translates this as "Short and fat, he's built like a vat" (Complete 192).
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9. Thrush's beak: A thrush belongs to the family Turdidae and is an insectivore or omnivore ("Thrush"). There are over 180 species (Alsop III 592). The thrushes are sometimes classified with the Muscicapide group (Alsop III 592). The Turdidae group includes the Blackbird, Redwing, Bluebird and American Robin ("Thrush"). The European Robin use to belong to this group ("Thrush").

Thrushes are "some of the most familiar and famous songbirds in the world" (Alsop III 592) and are "found on all major landmasses except for New Zealand and Antarctica" (Alsop III 592).

Strangely, some thrushes have straight beaks, despite the words of the princess in the tale. Thrushes are celebrated in literature for their song (Alsop III 592), but can also be a symbol of sorrow as in Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" or even wisdom as in The Hobbit.

Notice that King Thrushbeard stands high in the row so he is a rich and powerful king.
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10. King Thrushbeard: A man's beard is linked with his dignity (Biedermann 34), so the insulting name is a direct attack on Thrushbeard's pride. Marie-Louise Franz associates Thrushbeard with Woton (Odin) (172), the Norse god of wisdom and as an aspect of the animus (170). Von Franz writes of the animus ridden woman, "the worst condition comes about when a woman has a powerful animus and does not even live with it, then she is being straight jacketed by animus opinions, and while she may avoid any work that seems in least masculine, she is much less feminine" (174). By refusing all her suitors, even the most worthy ones, the princess is not fulfilling what was seen as the proper role of a woman (to marry and produce children).

To dream of a beard "denotes that some uncongenial person will oppose his will against yours, and there will be a fierce struggle for mastery, and you were likely to lose some money in the combat" (Miller 87). This happens to the princess in the tale.
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11. Beggar: A beggar is the lowest level of society (Biedermann 36). In a dream, "to give to a beggar denotes dissatisfaction with present surroundings" (Miller 91). Like King Thrushbeard, a beggar is also an aspect of Wotan (von Franz 175).

The king's oath means that the daughter will marry beneath her class, a blow to her pride. Von Franz considers this a breaking of the stalemate between father and daughter over her refusal to leave (172).
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12. Fiddler: Usually to dream of a fiddle foretells harmony in the home (Miller 234). Marie-Louise von Franz writes, "the animus appears to be poor and often never revels the great treasures of the unconscious which are at his disposal" (173). The fiddler (Thrushbeard) being the animus here.
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13. You may just go away with your husband: Because of the marriage, the heroine's social status has tumbled. Unlike other tales, the fiddler is not raised to her status, she drops to his. Tatar points out that unlike their male counterparts, "women suffer by forced into a lowly social position . . . their female counterparts undergo a process of humiliation and defeat" (95).

Considering the father's later appearance, it is possible to see this as a plot by the father and Thrushbeard to teach the daughter a lesson. It is also worth noting that this is a forced separation (rejection) of the daughter from her father and that the separation comes from the father himself.
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14. Forest: The forest is a place of change, so it is not surprising that it is here that the heroine expresses regret for not marrying King Thrushbeard. In a dream, ". . . a dense forest denotes loss in trade, unhappy home influences, and quarrels among families" (Miller 246).
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15. Belongs to King Thrushbeard: Jack Zipes in his translation gives the follower rhyme which expresses the conversation between the daughter and the fiddler when reaching the forest, town, and meadow. The daughter speaks first.

'Tell me, who might the owner of this forest [meadow, town} be?'
'King Thrushbeard owns the forest and all you can see'
'Alas, poor me! What can I do?
I should have wed King Thrushbeard. If only I knew'
(Complete 193).

The sequence of seeing the lands which belong to King Thrushbeard could also be seen as a reference to Wotan for Wotan refers to himself as owner of the land when he visits households (von Franz 176).
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16. Unhappy girl that I am: The heroine's repentance comes because of her poor status and, perhaps, actually seeing the wealth of King Thrushbeard makes her realize what she refused. Von Franz states that such regret is typical of the animus driven woman, and is "pseudo" guilt and sterile (173).
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17. Came to a meadow: According to Miller, "to dream of meadows, predicts happy reunions under bright promises of future prosperity" (377).
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18. Came to a large town: Zipes translates it as city (Complete 193).
According to Biedermann, "in the symbolgoly of the psyche, the city stands for the regularized center of a person's life, which can often be reached only after long travels, when a high degree of emotional maturity has been attained and the gate to the spiritual center of one's life can be traversed" (72).

In dreams, a strange city, "denotes you will have a sorrowful occasion to change your abode or mode of living" (Miller 146). Both the above meanings are shown within the tale, the daughter's change in statues and the happy ending.
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19. Miserable, mean hovel: Zipes translates is as "Oh Lord! What a wretched house/It's not even fit for a mouse" (Complete 193).

There is a sense of entering another world after the princess leaves her father, von Franz points out ". . . the fact is that such women [animus ridden] have marvelous journeys with the animus-lover, of which they are not fully aware" (172).
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20. That is my house and yours, where we shall live together: A house can represent the family line (Biedermann 179). According to Jung, "What happens inside it, happens within ourselves" (Biedermann 179). Freud associates the house "with the woman, the mother, in a sexual or childbearing sense" (Biedermann 179).

Miller writes that in dreams, "old and dilapidated houses denote failure in business or any effort, and declining health" (297).
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21. What servants?: Marie-Louise von Franz writes, "as compensation for high-flown ambitions, the animus forces a woman into a way of life far below her real capacity" (174). The lack of servants drives home the fact that the heroine's circumstances have really changed. She has fallen very far.
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22. Knew nothing about lighting fires or cooking: Fire is usually seen as male (Biedermann 130) and "in dream symbolism fire is closely associated with the hearth . . . food preparation, as well as romantic ardor" (Biedermann 130).

The fact that the princess does not seem capable of doing any of the housework is not only a symptom of laziness but of the animus as well (von Franz 173). The animus makes the woman lazy or inclined to plot ( von Franz 173).

Any servant chore that princess performs is "a kind of compensation to persuade the woman to become feminine again. The effect of animus pressure can lead a woman to deeper femininity, providing she accepts the fact that she is animus-possessed and does something to bring her animus reality" (von Franz 174).
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23. Weave: "To dream that you are weaving denotes that you will baffle any attempt to defeat in the struggle for the up -building of an honorable fortune" (Miller 597). Weaving is also a womanly pursuit, even done by the upper classes. However, here the princess does not have a loom.
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24. Tough willows: Willows can mean chastity (Biedermann 381), perhaps a reference to the princess's refusal to marry. The willow is also connected to the Bible because of its seemingly endless green branches (Biedermann 381). Willow was believed to help sick (Biedermann 381), and a weeping willow can symbolize death (Biedermann 381).
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25. Better spin: Spinning is connected to the fates, death, and rebirth (Biedermann 317). It is also seen as woman's work and appears in several fairy tales.

According to von Franz, spinning is connected to wishful thinking as well (172). Von Franz continues, "Both the spinning wheel and the act of Spinning are proper to Wotan, and in our tale ["King Thrushbeard"] the girl has to spin to support her husband. The animus has taken possession of her own properly feminine activity" (172-173).
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26. Sit in the market place: In dreams a young woman in the marketplace foretells pleasant changes (Miller 372).
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27. To buy the woman's wares: Von Franz points out that "vessels are feminine symbols and she is driven to sell her feminity at a low price - too cheaply and too collectively" (174). This is an attempt to regain contact with life and men (von Franz 175). In addition, "she acts out of the vague realization that something is wrong and makes desperate attempts to make up for what has been lost because of her animus-imposed estrangement from men" (von Franz 175).
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28. Drunken hussar: A hussar is a European solider, usually a cavalry officer. Von Franz points out that the hussar, "symbolizes a brutal outburst of emotion. The wild ungovernable animus smashes everything, showing clearly that such an exhibition of her unconscious nature does not work" (175). This is also another aspect of Wotan (von Franz 175). According to von Franz, the horse the hussar rides is connected to the animus and respects instinctive animal nature (176).
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29. Now a kitchen maid: She cannot serve at home or in public, so ends back at a castle.
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30. Placed herself by the door of the hall to look on: According to the I Ching such action is interpreted "as having too narrow and too subjective view" (Von Franz 175). Von Franz writes, "The inferiority of a woman who thinks she must admire others and nurses secret jealousy toward them means being unable to assess one's own real worth" (175). This is the start of her final humiliation. This is also the second feast, see above for the symbolism of a feast.
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31. Cursed the pride and haughtiness: The second example of her repentance.
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32. Velvet and silk: "To dream of wearing silk clothes is a sign of high ambition being gratified and friendly relations will be established between those who were estranged" (Miller 512). Velvet "portends a successful enterprise . . . it denotes that she will have honors bestowed upon her" (Miller 577).
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33. Pots fell down: A broken jar can symbolize deep disappointment (Miller 316). But in dreams, soup is good news and can symbolize a chance to marry (Miller 522).
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34. General laughter and derision: The heroine cannot fall any further. Her humiliation is total and complete. Von Franz writes that "this humiliation is what is needed, for, as we see in the story, the heroine then realizes that she is after all the daughter of a king. Only then does she learn that Thrushbeard is in fact her husband" (175). In other words, she is now whole as a person in a psychological sense.
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35. Now we will celebrate our wedding: Rowe notes "Because heroine adopts conventional female virtue, that is patience, sacrifice and dependency, and because she submits to patriarchal needs, she conquestently receives both the prince and a guarantee off social and finical security though marriage" (217). The tale must end with the heroine because the heroine represents a threat to the "cultural imperative to wed . . . and the social fabric" (Rowe 217) that she must be forced to submit to marriage (Rowe 217).

Paradiz sees the reformed heroine as Friederike Mannel, a source for the Grimms, well liked by William and whose house the Brentanos stayed (63).

The second marriage is sometimes seen as a marriage of equals (Snyder); in this case, the second marriage reinforces the first and shows that the heroine has truly changed.

Jack Zipes writes of "King Thrushbeard" that "such tales . . . are decidedly biased against females who must either be put in their places or have their identity define by males" (Breaking 154).
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