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Tuesday, 16 October 2012


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Completely fascinating as ever, Helen! I had never heard of this story before. There's something so disproportionate about these tales, I mean, there we are tripping through it quite merrily until suddenly Faithful John is being executed and the King has to behead his sons. Woah, hang on a minute, what happened there? And that poor princess has a dreadful role as compliant other. Loved your account and analysis.


What a very strange story. I am still stuck on how the king gets the princess in the first place. Why did he have to trick her? why couldn't he have just courted her like a normal person?


I don't remember having read this Grimm tale before! I'm just wondering, Helen, which Grimm collections would you recommend? And which ones do you use/read? What I love about your blog is how, reading it, I feel like I'm reading a book in itself. Thank you for this wonderful post.


Another Grimm story of which I am inordinately fond! A while ago I was reading different versions of it from all different places, and it was fascinating (as usual!) to see the permutations. In one of them, when the queen wants to bring Faithful John back, someone tells her, "This is not a thing that requires payment in wealth; but being an affair of life, it must be paid for with as much again of life." I thought that was such an elegant way of saying that.


Sorry to take so long to reply to everyone!

Thank you litlove; it wasn't a tale I knew either - or maybe I did, but had forgotten it - and I loved it. The more of these stories I read, the more I can see why they seem to have been so attractive to analysts and psychotherapists. But I am not sure how to analyse this story, there seem to be so many possibilities.

Stefanie, I don't know! Perhaps the king is deeply inadequate as a human being and hideously ugly to boot? ;) But there doesn't seem to be anything in the story to suggest that this is an outrageous thing to do - the outrageous thing is ingratitude.

Claire, I don't think I'm in any position to recommend any collections (by the looks of her comment, Jenny would be a better person to ask!). The edition I am using at the moment is the Oxford University Press 'Selected Tales', edited by Joyce Crick. (There aren't any pictures though, heh!)

Jenny - there are different versions? Tell me more! Where did you find them? What do you make of it all? That line is brilliant - it is elegant, but it also introduces that element of trade in the story - you know, that loyalty must be 'repaid', that things must be kept in balance.


The statue standing by the bed struck me too- so I think your interpretation is quite interesting. I'm not sure about the idea of Faithful John as father figure- he seems to play a typical magical sidekick type fairytale role (like Puss in Boots for example- where the hero is similarly passive). On the other hand, the old king does make him promise to act as a foster father to the new king, so I guess there is an explicit father-son relationship there.

I found the fact that Johannes asked for the heads of the children so brutal! But then it is more of a symbolic act I guess, since they are restored at the end.


Ooh, Puss in Boots is an excellent and interesting comparison Catie! Thank you.

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