Thursday, October 24, 2013

ATU 432: The Prince as Bird

ATU 432: The Prince as Bird is a more common Animal Bridegroom tale type. There are seventeen versions of this tale type in Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World.

The tale type generally begins like 425B: Beauty and the Beast with a youngest daughter's request for an unusual gift. After much searching, the father finally obtains the gift from a faraway, unknown prince and brings it home to his daughter. She then uses it to summon the prince to her room at night, usually in the form of a bird. (Fill in the blanks there, the tales often let you do so.) The sisters--or in rare cases a jealous husband in less innocent and happy versions!--discovers the reason for the woman's joy and sabotage the window with jagged glass, etc., thus wounding the bird during his next visit. The prince flees home, almost mortally wounded and deathly sick. The daughter discovers the treachery and sets out in search of him. When she finds his kingdom, in disguise, she cures the prince when everyone else has failed. Eventually her disguise is penetrated, she is exonerated, and reunited with her lover. And they live happily ever after.

The earliest known version is "The Lay of Yonec" by Marie de France, a tale from the late 12th century. This tale, in turn, is thought to have influenced The Blue Bird by Madame d'Aulnoy in the late 17th century.

A version also appears in the 16th century in Basile's Pentamerone as "Verde Prato" which directly translates as "Green Meadow" but is sometimes called The Three Sisters, as one translator explained that Green Meadow has nothing to do with the story.

All of these versions appear in Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World, but I also included variants from Greece, England, Denmark, Russia, and India.

The Russian version may be more familiar to readers, too, as it is commonly known as Finist the Falcon.

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I enjoy this tale type since the heroine is usually spunky and often guiltless--she never betrays her lover, but still fights hard to save him when she herself is betrayed and falsely accused of the betrayal.

Birds are also a common form for Animal Bridegrooms, often in stories where the prince comes to the heroine who is safely tucked away home. A bird shape is one of the more obvious ways for the hero to gain access to a family home and an innocent maiden.

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