Fairy Tale of the Week:
“The Three Feathers” by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm
What is it with fairy tales and the number 3? Is it just me, or does that particular number seem to pop up a lot?
Once upon a time, there was a King who had three sons. Two were (supposedly) pretty smart, but the third was called the Simpleton. When the King became old and frail, he was trying to decide which of his sons would inherit everything after his death, and he decided to send them out on a quest, of sorts. The son to bring him the most beautiful carpet would become the next King, and, to start them off on their journey, he threw three feathers into the air and instructed each of them to go in the direction a feather flew. One went east, another west, but the third went straight up before falling back to the ground.
The two brothers went off after their feathers, after mocking Simpleton because he had to stay behind. He sat down, feeling pretty low, but noticed a trap door next to the feather. He lifted it, found some steps, and of course he went down them. At the bottom, he found a door, knocked, and someone called from inside before the door opened and revealed a family of toads. The largest (the mother, I suppose) asked him what he wanted and he said he wanted the finest carpet. She had one of the young toads fetch a box, then she opened it and pulled out a beautiful rug and gave it to him.(She’s a charitable character, isn’t she?) He thanked her, and went to present it to the King. At the same time, his brothers had returned–after not putting much effort into locating nice carpets–and Simpleton was declared the successor to the throne.
The brothers were not happy about that, saying Simpleton shouldn’t be King because, well, he was simple. Eventually, the king agreed to another task and sent them out to find a beautiful ring. Once more, the feathers were released and flew in the same way as before. Simpleton went through the trapdoor again, repeated the exchange with the toad, and received a ring so fine no mortal goldsmith could have made it. And, again, the King said Simpleton should inherit the kingdom. The brothers grumbled again until the King agreed to a third task.
This time, the brothers were to bring home the most beautiful woman. (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though, so this really isn’t fair from the beginning.) The feather situation was repeated, Simpleton went back to the toad, and she told him the most beautiful woman wasn’t there at the moment, but he would still have her. She gave him a hollowed out turnip with some mice harnessed to it, and he asked what he was to do with it. She instructed him to place one of her toads inside, and he did. She promptly turned into a gorgeous maiden, the turnip became a couch, and the mice horses. He kissed her, they drove away, and he won the kingdom once more. (The other two grabbed the first peasant women they met. Charming.)
Still, the brothers couldn’t stand the idea of Simpleton ruling after the King died, and demanded a final challenge. This one was for the women. Whichever could leap through a ring hung from the ceiling would win her husband the kingdom. They assumed the peasant women could do it, no problem, because they were strong, while the maiden would be too frail to accomplish it. The peasant women tried and broke their arms and legs (wow, how high was this ring?), but the toad…I mean pretty maiden…did it without any issues. Finally, the matter was settled. When he ruled, he ruled for a long time, and did so wisely. The end.
Meh. I don’t really have any strong thoughts about this one, and I don’t really know what to say about it. I don’t think I’ve read it before, or seen/read any adaptations or retellings, and I think it was pretty forgettable.
I’m going to say 2.5 out of 5 stars, rounded down to 2.