ATU 560: The Magic Ring is the tale type that I had the least amount of experience with and consequently learned the most about during the research for Puss in Boots and Other Cat Tales From Around the World. For this reason, it became one of my favorite tale types offered in the book. This is also one of the rare tale types where I was able to find more English translations of Eastern versions than European. And there was sufficient difference between the variants to make them interesting, especially the Eastern Hemisphere ones.
From my introduction:
Another vast tale type that features a cat as a key player is ATU 560: The Magic Ring which is often conflated with ATU 561: Aladdin—the more recognized tale in popular culture—since there are not many distinguishing factors between these magic object stories. However, a cat usually appears in the tales that fit best into ATU 560: The Magic Ring.
There are hundreds of known Magic Ring stories and no single tale is considered the definitive tale. One of the earliest known versions can be found in Basile’s Il Pentamerone as the first diversion of the fourth day, often known as “The Rooster’s Stone” or “The Stone in the Cock’s Head.” However, this version does not feature a cat so it has not been included in this collection.
In these stories, a young man acquires a magic ring after he unselfishly rescues several animals from abuse or death by paying for them with his last coins. He rescues the three animals in a succession of events, a dog, a cat and a snake. The snake is a prince among his kind and provides the means of acquiring a magic ring (or other object) that ultimately provides riches to the young man through wish fulfillment. The man’s wealth impresses the king and gains him a princess for a wife. Eventually he reveals the power of the ring and it is stolen from him, often through his wife’s complicity. He loses everything, is imprisoned, and faces imminent death. The dog and the cat have remained faithful during his journey from rags to riches and so set out to recover the ring for him. The cat is the better mastermind but together the cat and dog restore the ring to their master, thanking him for sparing their lives. His wealth is restored and he lives happily ever after in the lifestyle he prefers, sometimes as a king and sometimes as a regular man, depending on the level of his wife’s complicity in his trials.
This tale appears around the world, but the majority of the variants offered in this collection come from India and other parts of Asia. It is a fun tale, one with which I was less acquainted before I began the work on this anthology, but it became a grand treasure hunt to find rare variants to share. This tale type is more gratifying than “Puss in Boots” since the hero usually demonstrates his worthiness for his elevation to a higher social level. The Chinese and other Eastern versions are of particular interest, since they offer the story as a pourquoi tale of why cats and dogs do not like each other.
The Magic Ring tales included in the collection are:
The Cat and Dog and the Talisman from Turkey
The Grateful Snake, Cat, and Dog and the Talisman from Turkey
The Snake, the Dog, and the Cat from Greece & Albania
Gigi and the Magic Ring from Italy
The Hind of the Golden Apple from Portugal
The Enchanted Watch from France
Three Years Without Wages from Norway
The Ring with Twelve Screws from Russia
The Enchanted Ring from Russia
Sharau from Russia
The Story of the Man Who Bought Three Pieces of Advice from Iran
The Clever Cat from North Africa
The Wonderful Ring from Nigeria
The Magic Ring of the Lord Solomon from India
The Merchant, the Princess and the Grateful Animals from India
The Prince and His Animal Friends from India
The Charmed Ring from India
The Wonderful Ring from India
Lita and His Animals from India
The Golden Beetle; or, Why the Dog Hates the Cat from China
Why Dog and Cat Are Enemies from China
Tokgabi’s Menagerie (Cats and Dogs) from Korea
Why Dogs Wag Their Tails from Philippines
Juan Manalaksan from Philippines
Juan the Poor, Who Became Juan the King from Philippines