Sunday, January 13, 2013

Cinderella Type: ATU 511 One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes

The fourth Cinderella tale type in Cinderella Tales From Around the World is ATU 511 One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes. To me, this is the weirdest one, folks.

From my intro:

ATU 511 One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes

This is a less common Cinderella, although much more common than The Princess in the Chest. One of the best known versions of this tale is the Grimms’ Einäuglein, Zweiäuglein und Dreiäuglein, usually translated as One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes. One of the earliest appearances of this tale can be found in Germany in Das Ander Theyl der Gartengesellschaft by Martin Montanus circa 1560, but this version is not included in this collection. Although male Cinderellas are not discussed in this volume due to space constraints, most male Cinderellas, or Cinderlads, fall into this tale type classification.

A girl with a stepmother and three stepsisters is made to watch the family’s cattle and spin flax. She survives on a bare subsistence of food provided by her family. She shares her sorrows with one of the cows (or a bull or a goat) who gives her food, provided by pulling it out of its ears, and helps her with her work. The stepmother, suspicious of the girl’s improving health, sends each of her daughters—one has one eye, the next has two eyes and the last has three eyes—to spy upon the girl. The girl lulls the first two sisters to sleep but forgets about the last sister’s third eye which observes the cow’s assistance and reports to the stepmother. The stepmother has the cow slaughtered and the girl, upon the cow’s last instructions, refuses to eat the meat and buries the bones. A tree grows from the bones and continues to assist her, bringing her to the notice of a prince who marries her. In some versions the girl flees with the cow before it can be slaughtered and passes through forests of brass, silver, and gold. The cow dies in the final forest and instructs the burial of its bones which help the girl eventually marry a prince.

For example: Me, personally, I don't care to eat anything I pull out of a cow/bull's ear. Or any ear. I'm not even big on ears of corn due to digestion issues. But she's hungry. We'll eat strange things if we are hungry enough, won't we?

And the whole cow/mother substitute is fascinating. Especially when it's a bull instead.

But I also like it because in part it reminds me of The Twelve Dancing Princesses with its forests of different precious metals.

This Cinderella also tends to be a little more saved than self-saving with the animal helpers. She's still not nearly as passive as our well-known Perrault version but there's a lot of tears that may annoy some readers. (My thoughts on tears in fairy tales, however, have expanded a lot since the paper last February at Harvard, “Empowered by Tears: Weeping in Grimm’s Fairy Tales” by Ariane Mandell. That was an excellent paper! Not that I've ever been anti-tears, for tears are present in many of the most important events of our lives, but Mandell was eloquent about their power and reminded me of my own feelings about them outside fairy tales. And reminded me to apply the same philosophy to fairy tales.)


  1. I've always been more curious about how the heck the mother got children with one or three eyes in the first place. Granted it is a fairy tale, yet I do find it rather bizarre that at least in the Grimm version, this is Two Eyes biological mother. Most likely the mother has two eyes herself, yet is surprisingly proud of her unusual offspring and actually is disappointed that her middle child is so "ordinary"

    1. For some reason, I always thought the mother was a witch.