Fairy Tale Friday: The Girl and the Cow

The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales

Franz Xaver von Schönwerth

pg. 78-9

ATU 444 Enchanted Prince Disenchanted

(some possible similarities with ATU 440 The Frog King and ATU 441 In Enchanted Skin)

Cute. Classic set up and problem: cow is vanishing the whole day and no one knows why.

A miller’s eldest daughter (or three, of course), follows the cow across a lake (Crossing the Threshold). She gets beautiful clothes. The second does the same. But the youngest, in a twist, is reckless and doesn’t heed  the cow’s warning and gets stuck at the castle.

A cat comes that night and asks her to cut off his tail at midnight. She doesn’t want to, but the cat threatens to kill her. So at midnight she complies. In the morning, the cat (as expected) is transformed into a prince; a witch cursed him and the youngest daughter cured him. They get married. I have no idea if she ever goes back home to tell them she’s all right.

I do question a relationship where one of the party’s threatened to kill the other. But maybe he couldn’t explain the situation. Still, it sounds like unnecessary violence. In “The Frog King”, the frog doesn’t want to be thrown into a wall. He wants to be treated and feed by the princess.

(Is that self-entitled, too? Also what did the frog want to happen? Did he want the princess to throw him? Or did he think if he got her to like him first, she would want to cure him? Furthermore, how did he get cursed anyway and what was the cure? Was it really being thrown into a wall or was that just dumb chance?)

I can see this as set up for ATU 707 The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird. Also, this story shares similarities with d’Aulnoy’s “The White Cat” with role reversals.


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