The Devil’s Sooty Brother

“But one thing I must tell you: you must not wash, comb, or trim yourself, or cut your hair or nails, or wipe the water from your eyes for seven years.”

Devil's Sooty Brother Collage

I recently had the pleasure to collage a selection of images from the Grimms’ Tale “The Devil’s Sooty Brother” for Robert Bly’s new book More Than True: The Wisdom of Fairy Tales. This is a less-frequently pictured story, so I had to do a good bit of investigating to find source material for my repiction. I ended up finding images from Otto Ubbelohde (including the flames above), powerful pictures from Albert Weisgerber, Philipp Grot Johann, Franz Stassen, and, maybe most dynamically, from Gustaf Tenggren.

Devil's Sooty Brother by Alfred Tenggren

Gustaf Tenggren made this beautiful illustration for the tale in his 1922 Swedish collection of the Grimms’ Tales, which went on to be published in German the following year. Notably, Tenggren later immigrated to America and went to work for Walt Disney, where he was a chief illustrator for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. You can compare his work for the 1922 illustrated collection with the 1937 movie in the two images below. In the third image, published in the 1955 Little Golden Book Snow White and Rose Red, you can see Tenggren developed his style even further.

Snow White by Gustaf Tenggren

Disney's Snow White by Gustaf Tenggren

Tenggren's Snow White and Rose Red

With that, I turn to “The Devil’s Sooty Brother,” as collected and retold by Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm. In this story, a soldier journeys to the underworld where he earns a living and learns to make music. And, as Robert Bly notes, “When we learn how to play the musical instrument of our body . . . [is] when the man who left the tears in his eyes so he would remember his own grief, the underworld worker, the citizen who now has to forge his own life, gains the entire kingdom.”

The Devil’s Sooty Brother

A disbanded soldier had nothing to live on, and did not know how to get on. So he went out into the forest, and when he had walked for a short time, he met a little man. The little man, who was actually the devil, said to him, “What ails you? You seem so very sad.”

The soldier replied, “I am hungry, but have no money.”

The devil said, “If you will hire yourself to me, and be my servant, you shall have enough for all your life. You shall serve me for seven years, and after that you will again be free. But one thing I must tell you: you must not wash, comb, or trim yourself, or cut your hair or nails, or wipe the water from your eyes that whole time.”

The soldier said, “All right, if there is no helping it.” He went off with the little man, who straightaway led him down into hell. The devil told the soldier what he had to do: he was to poke the fire under the kettles where the hell-broth was stewing, keep the house clean, drive all the sweepings behind the doors, and see that everything was in order. If he even once peeped into the kettles, however, it would go badly for him. The soldier said, “Good, I will take care.”

The old devil went out again on his wanderings, and the soldier entered upon his new duties, made the fire, and swept the dirt well behind the doors, just as he had been bidden. When the devil came back again, he looked to see if all had been done, appeared satisfied, and went forth a second time. The soldier now took a good look on every side. The kettles were standing all around hell with a mighty fire below them, and inside they were boiling and sputtering. He would have given anything to look inside them, if the devil had not so particularly forbidden him. At last, he could no longer restrain himself. He raised the lid of the first kettle slightly, peeped in, and there he saw his former corporal.

“Aha, old bird!” he said, “I meet you here? You once had me in your power, but now I have you,” and he quickly let the lid fall, poked the fire, and added a fresh log. After that, he went to the second kettle, raised its lid a little, and peeped in: his former ensign was in that one. “Aha, old bird, so I find you here! You once had me in your power, now I have you.” He closed the lid, and fetched another log to make it especially hot. Then he wanted to see who might be sitting up in the third kettle and it was actually his general. “Aha, old bird, I meet you here? Once you had me in your power, but now I have you.” And he fetched the bellows and made hell-fire blaze away under him.

So he did his work seven years in hell, and did not wash, comb, or trim himself, or cut his hair or nails, or wash the water out of his eyes. The seven years seemed so short to him that he thought he had only been half a year. Now when the time had fully gone by, the devil came and said, “Well Hans, what have you done?” “I poked the fire under the kettles, and I have swept all the dirt well behind the doors.”

“But you have peeped into the kettles as well. It is lucky for you that you added fresh logs to them, or else your life would have been forfeited. Now that your time is up, will you go home again?”

“Yes,” said the soldier, “I should very much like to see what my father is doing at home.”

The devil said, “In order that you may receive the wages you have earned, go and fill your knapsack full of the sweepings, and take it home with you. You must also go unwashed and uncombed, with long hair on your head and beard, and with uncut nails and dim eyes, and when you are asked from where you come, you must say, ‘From hell,’ and when you are asked who you are, you are to say, ‘The devil’s sooty brother, and my king as well.'”

The soldier held his peace, and did as the devil bade him, but he was not at all satisfied with his wages. Then as soon as he was up in the forest again, he took his knapsack from his back to empty it. On opening it, however, he found the sweepings had become pure gold. “I should never have expected that,” he said, and was well pleased. He entered the town where the landlord was standing in front of the inn. When the landlord saw the soldier approaching, he was terrified, because Hans looked so horrible, worse than a scarecrow. He called to him and asked, “Where are you from?”

“From hell.”

“Who art you?”

“The devil’s sooty brother, and my king as well.”

Then the host would not let him enter, but when Hans showed him the gold, he unlatched the door himself. Hans then ordered the best room and attendance, and ate and drank his fill, but neither washed nor combed himself as the devil had bidden him, and at last lay down to sleep. But the knapsack full of gold remained before the eyes of the landlord, and left him no peace, and during the night he crept in and stole it away.

The next morning, however, when Hans got up and wanted to pay the landlord and travel further, he beheld his knapsack was gone! But he soon composed himself and thought, “You have been unfortunate from no fault of your own,” and straightway went back again to hell, complained of his misfortune to the old devil, and begged for his help.

The devil said, “Seat yourself, I will wash, comb, and trim you, cut your hair and nails, and wash your eyes for you.” When he had done so, the devil gave him the knapsack back again full of sweepings, and said, “Go and tell the landlord that he must return you your money, or else I will come and fetch him, and he shall poke the fire in your place.”

Hans went up and said to the landlord and said, “You have stolen my money. If you do not return it, you shall go down to hell in my place, and will look as horrible as I did.” Then the landlord gave him the money, and more besides, only begging him to keep it secret, and Hans was now a rich man.

He set out on his way home to his father, bought himself a shabby smock-frock to wear, and strolled about making music, for he had learned to do that while he was with the devil in hell. There was, as it turns out, an old king in that country before whom he had to play, and the king was so delighted with his playing that he promised him his eldest daughter in marriage. But when she heard that she was to be married to a common fellow in a smock-frock, she said, “Rather than do that, I would go into the deepest water.”

Then the king gave him the youngest, who was quite willing to do it to please her father, and thus the devil’s sooty brother got the king’s daughter, and when the aged king died, the whole kingdom likewise.

Books related to this post

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Art and Creation of Walt Disney's Classic Animated Film

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Art and Creation of Walt Disney’s Classic Animated Film

They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's Golden Age

They Drew as They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Golden Age

More Than True: The Wisdom of Fairy Tales by Robert Bly

More Than True: The Wisdom of Fairy Tales by Robert Bly


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By |2018-01-25T18:39:04+00:00January 24th, 2018|Illustrations, Wonder Tale Wednesdays, Wonder Tales|

The Golden Key

The Golden Key

A collage built around an illustration of “The Golden Key” by Otto Ubbelohde. Prints available here.

In the winter time, when snow lay deep on the ground, a poor boy was forced to go out with a sled to fetch wood. When he had gathered the wood together and packed it, he wished, as he was so frozen with cold, not to go home at once, but to light a fire and warm himself a little. So he scraped away the snow, and as he was clearing the ground, he found a tiny, golden key. He thought that where the key was, the lock must also be, and dug in the ground and found an iron chest. “If the key does but fit!” he thought. “No doubt there are precious things in this little box.” He searched, but there was no keyhole. At last he discovered one, but it was so small that it was hardly visible. He tried the key, and it fit exactly. He turned it round once, and now we must wait until he has unlocked it and opened the lid, and then we shall learn what wonderful things were lying in that box.

“The Golden Key” is the last story in the Grimms’ collection. Art historian Carol Mavor, with a nod to Roland Barthes, explains in her book Aurelia that this “unfinished gesture” turns the reader into a writer because it “demands the reader to write, to imagine, their own words that will fill the ‘little iron casket’ with their desires.” She then continues with the idea that withholding the “wonderful things” in the box has a touch of sadism because we “desire to know.” I personally tend to very much enjoy the possibility of what is in the box and think that, maybe, knowing specifically what was inside would never be quite as satisfying as leaving it to our imaginations. Did the box contain the original Grimms’ Tales? Borges’ “Library of Babel”? Something not yet discovered? But, as far as endings go, Peter Straub has offered a very satisfying conclusion. As fairy tale scholar Maria Tatar points out in The Annotated Brothers Grimm, Straub continues “The Golden Key” in his novel Shadowland. He writes that “[e]very story in the world, every story ever told, blew up out of the box. Princes and princesses, wizards, foxes and trolls and witches and wolves and woodsmen and kinds and elves and dwarves and a beautiful girl in a red cape, and for a second the boy saw them all perfectly, spinning silently in the air. Then the wind caught them and sent them blowing away, some this way and some that.”

Sarah Fagan Painting

Undone by Sarah Fagan

Sarah Fagan color pencil

Portable Miracle Filling, et al. by Sarah Fagan

When Sarah Fagan decided to reimagine this story for Mirror Mirrored, she took two very different approaches before settling on a final piece. First, she painted a white paper box, unfolded against a white background. She explained that, like the Tao Te Ching which states, “It is the empty space that makes the bowl useful,” she saw utility in emptiness. In a paper box’s unconstructed state, it is potential and has no material function. When it interacts with a human hand, however, it can become a repository for anything. It is both a blueprint for something and a thing itself.

Second, the piece that she ultimately decided to include in Mirror Mirrored was the traced outlines and creases of several unfolded boxes laid on top of each other, each layer of stacked boxes colored in with four different color pencils. In this piece, she both obliterates existing forms (the now abstract boxes) and creates a new one. She sees it as a way to free each box from the singular purpose it was created for and throw it into a perpetual self-examination of its nature: the forms organize and reorganize, attempting to make sense of themselves as we try to make sense of them. Maybe, she continues, these transformed boxes are not so unlike us: constantly structuring, compartmentalizing, and trying to understand our own lives. Thus, Fagan has decided to interpret “The Golden Key” not as a story looking outward, where the viewer imagines some far away magical story, but instead focuses inward, to see what the results of our imagination say about ourselves.

Selected books from this post

Mythologies by Roland Barthes

Mythologies by Roland Barthes

The Annotated Grimm by Maria Tatar

The Annotated Grimm by Maria Tatar

Aurelia by Carol Mavor

Aurelia by Carol Mavor

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

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By |2018-02-04T20:30:26+00:00January 16th, 2018|Artists, Creative, Wonder Tale Wednesdays, Wonder Tales|

The Star Coins

“When she woke up early the next morning, to her great surprise one of the little stars was making itself into a pancake for her breakfast!”

Star Coins Collage

It is not unusual to read different versions of the same wonder tale. Indeed, the Brothers Grimm were master amalgamators and combined the best bits of different versions of stories into a final version for publication. One of their stories, “Die Sternthaler” (“The Star Coins”), though, was “written down from a somewhat hazy recollection,” trusting that someone “will complete and correct it.” While the Grimms’ version is included in Mirror Mirrored, I recently ran across another telling in The Disobedient Kids and Other Czecho-Slovak Fairy Tales by Božena Němcová, as interpreted by William H. Tolman and V. Smetánka, and illustrated by Artuš Scheiner. (I opened this book thinking it would have some wonderful tales about mischievous children but the “disobedient kids” turned out to be young goats.) I have edited their take on the story and included it below. It varies slightly from the Grimms’ tale in that the young girl is not totally alone in the world and is instead traveling to her aunt, and that the stars take a turn as breakfast before later turning to gold. I hope you enjoy this story, and the collage above from various renditions of it including artists such as Victor Paul Mohn, Hermann Vogel, Arthur Rackham, Ella Dolbear Lee, Robert Leinweber, Heinrich Vogeler, and Otto Ubbelohde.

The Star Coins

Once upon a time, there was a six-year-old girl named Bozena. She had nothing in the world but the clothes on her back and a piece of bread, which her poor godfather had given her when he sent her off to her aunt.

She set out for the village where her aunt lived in a little hut, and it seemed very far away to this little girl. She was timid and afraid as she trudged along, and oh so lonely. At a turn in the road, she came upon a poor beggar who said, “Little girl, will you give me something to eat? I am very hungry.” She gave him her whole piece of bread without hesitation and said, “God bless it to you.”

By this time it was quite dark. As she continued into the wood, Bozena met another little girl who was shivering with the cold. The girl had no shirt and seemed to be in great distress. Bozena thought, “I can spare my shawl and will give it to her.” She parted ways with her shawl and continued on.

After a little while, she met another little girl who was so poor that she had no skirt. It was already nearing the end of autumn and winter was coming soon, so Bozena took off her own skirt and gave it to the poor little girl. The cold did not trouble Bozena very much because she had done a good deed and her little heart grew warm at the thought of it.

All at once, deep in the wood, Bozena saw little stars falling in her path way. She went closer to see what they looked like. They were yellow and shone brightly. She started to gather them in her hands, tossing them up and down. “Oh, if I only had an apron,” she thought. Suddenly, an apron appeared! She collected the little yellow stars in her apron and, growing very tired, fell asleep.

When she woke up early the next morning, to her great surprise one of the little stars was making itself into a pancake for her breakfast! She ate all she could and still had some left.

She set off and, after walking a great distance, reached her aunt’s hut that evening. She kissed her aunt and said, “Oh, auntie, see what I have in my apron.”

When she started to show her aunt, instead of the little stars that she expected to see, a stream of gold pieces poured out of her apron and rolled all over the room.

Imagine her poor old aunt’s joy and surprise. Now she could not only take care of Bozena, but could do much good for others all the rest of her life.

Star Coins by Artuš Scheiner

Illustration by Artuš Scheiner

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By |2018-03-08T02:07:28+00:00January 10th, 2018|Illustrations, Wonder Tale Wednesdays, Wonder Tales|

White Bear King Valemon

“Once when she was in the wood, she set her eyes upon a white bear, who had the very golden wreath she had dreamt of between his paws.”

White Bear King Valemon

In the nineteenth century, after the Brothers Grimm had published their first collection of stories, Asbjørnsen, a teacher, and Moe, a minister, decided to wander around the Norwegian countryside and collect their own set of wonder tales. Indeed, they corresponded with the Grimms, each approving of the other’s work. Both sets of stories have been illustrated by fantastic artists over the years, including the Norwegian artist Theodor Kittlesen and the Danish artist Kay Nielsen (who later worked on Walt Disney’s Fantastia) who have created some especially beautiful pictures for these stories. Indeed, one of these Norwegian tales, “White Bear King Valemon”—as imagined by Kittelsen—adorns the logo of the Norwegian folklore society.

I first encountered this collection of stories when I learned that the American poet Robert Bly was writing a book examining six fairy tales of special importance to him, including “King Valemon.” I was also lucky enough to be asked to remix some old illustrations for this new book. I have included, above, a draft image for publication combining pictures by Kittelsen and Moyr Smith (though the final version differed significantly). As you read the tale of “King Valemon,” as translated by Sir George Webbe Dasent and edited by me, I have also woven in several other illustrations of this tale, though it is somewhat less frequently pictured than it’s Aarne–Thompson-Uther type 425A sibling, “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”

I hope you enjoy the story of the white bear, the young princess, and the troll enchantress.

Norsk folkeminnelag logo

White Bear King Valemon

Illustration by Moyr Smith, 1908

Illustration by Moyr Smith, 1908

Once upon a time there was a king with two daughters who were ugly and evil, but a third who was as fair and soft as the bright day. One night, his third daughter dreamt of a golden wreath so lovely that she couldn’t live without it. She grew sullen and wouldn’t so much as talk due to her grief at not having the wreathe, so the king sent out a pattern based on her dream to goldsmiths far and wide to see if they make the wreath. The goldsmiths worked night and day, but the princess tossed all their wreathes away.

But once when she was in the wood, she set her eyes upon a white bear, who had the very wreath she had dreamt of between his paws and was playing with it. The princess wanted to buy it, but the bear said she could only have it if he could have her. Because she thought life was not worth living without the wreathe, she agreed to be fetched in three days, on Thursday.

When the princess arrived home with the wreathe, everyone was overjoyed that she was happy again. The king thought that it should not be so hard to stop a white bear from taking his daughter, so three days later put his whole army around the castle to turn away the bear. But when the white bear came, no weapon could scratch his hide and he hurled the soldiers left and right so that they lay in piles. Upon seeing this, the kind send out his eldest daughter instead of his youngest, and the white bear took her upon his back and went off. When they had gone quite far, and farther than far, the white bear asked her,

Have you ever sat softer, and have you ever seen clearer?”

“On my mother’s lap I sat softer, and in my father’s hall I saw clearer,” she answered.

“Oh!” said the white bear, “Then you are not the right one,” and he chased her home.

The next Thursday the bear came again, and it went just the same. The army went out, but neither iron nor steel scratched hide, and he mowed them down like grass until the king begged him to stop. The king sent out his next oldest daughter, and the white bear took her on his back and went off. When they had traveled far and farther than far, the white bear asked,

“Have you ever seen clearer, and have you ever sat softer?”

“Yes,” she answered. “In my father’s hall I saw clearer, and on my mother’s lap I sat softer.”

“Oh! Then you are not the right one,” said the white bear, and he chased her home.

On the third Thursday the bear came again, and he attacked the king’s men harder than before. As the king could not let his whole army be slain, he gave the bear his youngest daughter. The bear took her on his back and went far away and farther than far. When they had gone deep, deep, into the woods, he asked her as he had asked the others, whether she had ever sat softer or seen clearer.

Illustration by Theodor Kittelsen, c. 1912

One of several versions of Valemon by Theodor Kittelsen, c. 1912

“No, never!” she said.

“Ah!” he said. “You are the right one.”

They came to a castle so grand that her father’s looked like the poorest place in the world by comparison. The princess was to live there with no responsibility other than seeing that the fire never went out. The bear was away by day, but with her at night in the form of a man. All went well for three years, but every year she had a baby and the bear carried each off as soon as they came into the world. The princess grew bored, and begged to go home to visit her parents. There was no stopping her, but the bear made her give her word that she would listen to her father and not do what her mother wished. So she went home, and when she was alone with her parents and told them how she was treated, her mother wanted to give her a light to take back that she might see what kind of man she was with.

Her father, however, said, “You must not do that, for it will lead to harm and not to gain.”

But however it happened, so it happened, the princess took a bit of a candle-end back with her. The first thing she did on her return, when her bear-by-day was sound asleep, was to light it and illuminate him. He was so lovely that she thought she could never gaze at him enough, but as she held the candle over him a hot drop of tallow dropped on his forehead and he woke up.

“What is this you’ve done?” he said. “Now you have made us both unlucky. There was no more than a month left, and had you lasted it out, I should have been saved and my curse broken. A hag of the trolls has bewitched me to be a white bear by day, but now that you have broken your word I must go marry her.”

King Valemon sleeping

Illustration by Theodor Kittelsen, c. 1902

She wept and lamented, but he had to go. She asked if she could go with him, and he replied, “No, there is no way to do that.” Still, when he set off in his bear-shape, she took hold of his shaggy hide, threw herself upon his back, and held on fast.

Away they went over crags and hills, through brakes and briars, till her clothes were torn off her back. Finally, she was so tired, that she lost her wits and let go. When she came to, she was in a great forest. She set off again, but could not tell where she was going. After a long, long, time she came to a hut with an old woman and a pretty little girl. The princess asked them whether they had seen anything of King Valemon the white bear.

“He passed by here this morning early,” they said. “But he was going so fast that you’ll never be able to catch up.”

The little girl there ran about, playing and clipping the air with a pair of golden scissors. As she clipped, silk and satin flew all about. Where the scissors went, there was never any want of clothes.

“This woman,” she said, “who has to go so far on such difficult paths, may well suffer much. She will need these scissors more than I do to cut out clothes.”

The child begged the older woman to let her hand over the scissors, until at last she agreed.

Away the princess traveled through woods that seemed endless, both day and night, until she came to another hut the next morning. In it there was also an elder woman and a young girl.

“Good day,” said the princess. “Have you seen anything of King Valemon the white bear?”

“Was it you, maybe, who was to have him?” said the old woman.

“Yes, it was!”

“Well, he passed by yesterday, but he went so quickly that you’ll never be able to catch up.”

This little girl played on the floor with a flask that poured out any drink one wished to have.

“This poor woman,” said the girl, “who has to go so far on such difficult paths, may well be thirsty and suffer much. She will need this flask more than I do.”

She asked the old woman if she could give the princess the flask, and the old woman have her permission to do so.

The princess took the flask, thanked them, and set off again through the woods. After travelling all day and through the next night, she came to a third hut with an old woman and a little girl.

“Good day,” said the princess.

“Good day to you,” said the old woman.

“Have you seen anything of King Valemon, the white bear?” asked the princess.

“Maybe it was you who was to have him?” said the old woman.

“Yes, it was!”

“Well, he passed by here the day before yesterday, but he was going so fast that you’ll never be able to catch up.”

This little girl played with a napkin on the floor. When anyone said to it, “Napkin, spread yourself out and be covered with dainty dishes,” it did just that, so where it went there was never any want of a good dinner.

“This poor woman,” said the little girl, “who has to go so far on such difficult paths, may well starve and suffer other ills. She has far more need of this napkin than I do.” She asked if she could give the princess the napkin, and did so.

The princess took the napkin, thanked them, and set off again. She went far and farther than far through the woods and travelled all day and night. The next morning she came to a mountain as steep as a wall, so high and wide that she could see no end to it. At the base of the mountain there was a hut, and as soon as she set foot inside it, she said, “Good day. Do you know if King Valemon the white bear passed this way?”

“Good day to you,” replied the old woman in the hut. “It was you, maybe, who was to have him?”

“Yes, it was!”

“Well, he passed by and went up the mountain three days ago, but nothing else without wings can climb it.”

The hut was full of small children who hung around their mother’s skirts and bawled for food as she put a pot on the fire full of small, round pebbles. The princess asked why the old woman did that, and she explained that they were so poor that they had neither food nor clothing, but when she put the pot on the fire and said, “The apples will be ready soon,” the words dulled the children’s hunger so they were patient a while.

The children crying for food went to the princess’s heart and she brought out the napkin and the flask. After the children were full and happy, she cut them clothes with her golden scissors.

“Well!” said the old woman. “Because you have been so kind and good towards me and my children, it would be a shame if I didn’t try to help you up the mountain. My husband is one of the best smiths in the world. Just lie down and rest till he comes home, and I’ll get him to forge claws for your hands and feet to climb the mountain.”

When the smith came home, he set to work on the claws at once, and the next morning they were ready. The princess had no time to stay, but said, “Thank you,” and left. She clung close to the rock and crept and crawled with the steel claws all that day and through the night. Just as she felt so tired that she could scarcely lift hand or foot and was about to fall down, she arrived at the top. There she found a huge plain, full of tilled fields and meadows. It was bigger and broader, and wider and flatter, than she thought was possible. There was also a castle full of workmen of all kinds, swarming about like ants.

Illustration by Moyr Smith

Illustration by Moyr Smith, 1908

“What is going on here?” wondered the princess.

As it turns out, the old troll hag who had bewitched King Valemon lived there, and in three days she was going to hold her wedding feast with him. The princess asked around whether she could speak with the hag.

Everyone said, “No, that is quite impossible.”

So she sat down under a castle window and began to clip in the air with her golden scissors, till the silks and satins flew about as thick as a snow drift.

When the old hag saw that, she had to buy the golden scissors. “Our tailors can do no good at all,” she said. “We have too many to clothe.”

The princess said, “I will not sell the scissors for any amount of gold, but you can have them if you let me spend the night with King Valemon.”

“Yes!” said the old hag. “But I must see him to sleep and wake him in the morning.”

When he went to bed, the hag gave King Valemon a sleeping draught so that he would not open his eyes no matter how much the princess cried and wept.

The next day the princess went back under the window again, and began pouring from her flask. It frothed like a brook with ale and wine, and it was never empty. When the old hag saw that, she had to have it. “For all our brewing and stilling, we still have too many to find drinks for.”

The princess said, “It is not for sale, but if you let me sleep with King Valemon that night, then you can have it.”

“Well!” said the old hag. “You may well do that, but I must see him to sleep and wake him in the morning.”

So when the king went to bed, the hag gave him another sleeping draught. It went no better for the princess that the first night. He was not able to open his eyes no matter how much the princess bawled and wept.

But a workmen, who worked in a room next to theirs, heard the weeping. The next day he told the king that the princess who could set him free would come at night.

Outside the castle, it went just the same as it had with the napkin as it had with the scissors and flask. When it was dinnertime, the princess took out the napkin and said, “Napkin, spread yourself out and be covered with dainty dishes.” There was suddenly meat enough, and even to spare, for hundreds of men, but the princess sat down to eat by herself.

When the old hag set her eyes on the napkin, she wanted to buy it. “For all the roasting and boiling, it is worth nothing because we have too many mouths to feed.”

But the princess said, “I will not sell it for money, but if you let me sleep with King Valemon this night, you can have it.”

“Well!” said the old hag. “You may well do that, but I must see him to sleep and wake him in the morning.”

Valemon Trapdoor

Illustration by Theodor Kittelsen

As King Valemon was going to bed, she came with the sleeping draught, but this time he did not drink it and only pretended to sleep. The old hag did not trust him, however, and stuck a pin into his arm to see if he was truly asleep. For all his pain, he did not stir a bit, and so the princess was permitted to see him.

Everything was soon set right between them, and if they could get rid of the old hag he would be free. King Valemon had the carpenters make a trapdoor on the bridge over which the bridal train had to pass, and it was custom for the bride and her friends to be at the head of the train.

As they were crossing the bridge, the trapdoor tipped up with the bride and all the other old hags who were her bridesmaids. But King Valemon and the princess, and all the rest of the train, turned back to the castle and took as much gold and as many possessions as they could carry, and set off for his land to hold their real wedding.

On the way, King Valemon picked up the three little girls from the three huts and took them with them, and the princess understood why it was he had taken her babes away: so they might help her find him. And so they drank their bridal ale both stiff and strong.

The collection of Norwegian Tales East of the Sun from Taschen, edited by Noel Daniel, adapts an earlier version of the same book, illustrated by Kay Nielsen, with newly sharp versions of and details from the original watercolors. It is quite beautiful (though it lacks Valemon’s tale), as are all the books in that series. Purchases through the links on the pictures below directly support Mirror Mirrored.

Hans Christian Andersen by Taschen

East Of The Sun by Taschen

Fairy Tales By the Brothers Grimm by Taschen

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By |2018-01-16T15:33:51+00:00January 3rd, 2018|Creative, Design, Illustrations, Wonder Tale Wednesdays, Wonder Tales|