The Snake Prince
This Indian fairy tale is about a poor woman, with nothing to eat, who went to bathe. When she came out of the river, she found a
poisonous snake in her pot. She took it home, but when she opened the pot, she found a rich necklace. She sold it to the king. The king put it in a chest, but when he opened it to show the queen, he found a baby boy. He and the queen raised it as their son, and the old woman just so happened to get hired as their nurse.
The king's son was betrothed marry a princess from another land, and when that princess came to marry, the old nurse warned her to ask about the magic. The prince tells her he is from far off land, and had been turned into a snake. Upon telling her the truth, though, he became a snake again. The princess mourned for the prince where he had vanished, and the snake came to her. He told that if she put bowls of milk and sugar in the four corners of the room, snakes would come, led by the Queen of the Snakes. If she stood in the queen's way, she could ask for her husband, but if she were frightened and did not, she could not have him back.
The princess did as he said and won back her husband.
What Came of Picking Flowers
This Portugese tale starts with a woman who has three daughters. One day, the eldest picked a carnation and vanished. The next day, the second, searching for her sister, picked a rose and vanished. The third day, the youngest picked some jessamine and—you guessed it—vanished. The woman's son, just a boy when his sisters vanished, grew up to be a man, and asked what had happened. His mother told him of his sisters, and he set out to find them.
He found his first sister, who had been taken by a prince she'd fallen in love with. She had only one unhappiness: her husband was under a curse that he would spend half each day as a bird, until a man who could not die, died. Her husband gave the brother a feather that would let him call on him, the King of the Birds. Soon the man found his second sister, whose only trouble was a spell that kept her husband half his day a fish. Her husband, the king of the fish, gave the brother a scale to call on him.
Finally, he found his youngest sister, who had been carried off by a monster, and was weeping and thin from its cruelty, because she had refused to marry it. Her brother asked her to say she would marry it, if it told her how it could die. When she did, it told her that an iron casket at the bottom of the sea held a white dove, and the dove's egg, dashed against its head, would kill it. The brother had the King of the Fishes bring him the box, used the key to open it, had the King of the Birds follow the dove after it flew off, and found the egg. The youngest sister asked the monster to lay its head in her lap. Her brother smashed the egg on its head, and it died, freeing his two brothers-in-law, and his youngest sister from her imprisonment.
Finally, this Scottish fairy tale makes the list because though it does come from one of those already well-represented European cultures, it contains actual fairies and a fairy dancing ring! We figured at least one of these tales needed to showcase these mischievous creatures, especially in some of their more dangerous activities. The tale features a pair of step-sisters named Kate and Anne. Kate's mother, wanting her daughter to be the more
beautiful of the two, seeks out magic to curse Anne with the head of the sheep. Kate, however, loves her step-sister and helps her to hide the sheep's head, and together they set out to find a way to reverse the spell.
In their journeys, the come upon a royal family with two sons. The eldest son had fallen ill, and no one could discover why. The sisters stay up late to discover the son leaving the castle at night and going out to dance in a fairy ring. While there, Katie sees a young fairy playing with a bird, who tells Katie that three bites of the bird will cure the prince. Katie distracts the fairy by rolling nuts past it and captures the bird, serving it to the prince, who is cured. A second night Katie and Anne visit the fairy ring and find the fairy, this time playing with a wand. Again Katie distracts the fairy by rolling nuts past it, and takes the wand, using it to break the spell on Anne. The two sisters return to the palace and marry the two princes, and live happily ever after.