>The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Brothers Grimm collection)

The number twelve, just like the number three, seems to be a very common number in fairy tales and clearly the number is significant in The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  In this fairy tale a king has twelve daughters who he locks away in a bedroom at night (though there is no mention of ill will for this act).  But in the mornings the king finds the soles of the twelve princesses’ shoes are worn out.  In order to find out where his daughters are going at night, he offers a reward to any prince who can find out.  The reward is their choice of which daughter he would like to marry.  But if the prince is unable to find out in the allotted 3 days, his head will be chopped off.
A few princes who try mysteriously fall asleep at night and the twelve princesses are able to go, as we find out later, dancing.  These princes get their head chopped off.  Finally an old woman (it’s always an old woman) advices a wounded soldier not to drink the wine he is offered at night.  The soldier follows this advice and is able to stay awake at night.  The old woman also gives the soldier an invisible cloak so he can follow the princesses.  He finds out that there is an underground passage under the princesses’ bedroom that leads them to twelve awaiting princes and boats on which they dance the night away.  The soldier tells the king the whole story and chooses the oldest princess to be his bride.
Everything is pretty straight forward except the last paragraph which I didn’t quite understand.  It reads,
The wedding was celebrated the same day, and he was promised the kingdom after the king’s death.  But the enchantment of the princes was extended one day for each night they had danced with the princesses.
The “But” in the paragraph doesn’t seem to fit as the 2nd sentence doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the first.  “The princes” are (most likely) referring to the twelve princes waiting on boats to dance with the princesses, but there was no mention of an enchantment on them…….Or at least I didn’t catch it the first time and will have to read it again.  And finally, “the extension” is supposed to a reward, punishment or what because it doesn’t seem like they deserve either………
My google skills have failed me yet again as I can’t seem to find any mention of this last paragraph anywhere.  I guess I’ll have to read another version of this tale to see what the ending is of that.
Upon giving this tale more thought (one of the reasons why I love doing reviews), it occurred to me that this isn’t your typical fairy tale.  The author of this tale seems to be poking fun at the traditional fairy tales.  The soldier chooses the oldest daughter when the youngest daughter is usually the one chosen.  The “hero” of the story being a wounded (implied old? he himself says he is no longer a young man) soldier is a striking contrast to the usual young prince of most stories.  The simpleton, who in this tale is the youngest daughter (at least that’s what the oldest daughter calls her), usually ends up saving the day, but in this case her correct advice is ignored.  Heck, even in the 1st line of the tale there seems to be a flip-flop of the usual.  The line is,
Once upon a time there was a king who had twelve daughters, each one more beautiful than the next.
Usually the line (or at least the meaning) goes “each one more beautiful than the previous”, which is why the youngest daughter is usually the one picked.  One can only imagine how “pretty” the youngest daughter is if she is to the 11th degree uglier than her oldest sister 🙂 .
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2 Responses to >The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Brothers Grimm collection)

  1. >I really like this new children's review series you are doing. I like to review children's books, too– it's one of my few splurges.

  2. >Haha I am just returning to my grass roots. I enjoyed fairy tales and children stories into my early twenties and then it was just a natural (albeit later) transition into fantasy.

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