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Danish Fairy Tales. Notes


The notes are from Clara Stroebe's The Danish Fairy Book. Book data is at the bottom of the page. - TK

The Clever Young Girl

"The Clever Girl" (Grundtvig, II, No. 446, p. 307) from Falster, is also in in Grimm, who calls his heroine "Clever Elsie."


The Tree of Health

"The Tree of Health" (Grundtvig, II, No. 4, p. 20), from Seeland, tells a tale of magic fruit, and how it raises a poor boy to high honours with the aid of grateful animals.


The Mill at the Bottom of the Sea

Of genuine Northern origin and current as far as Iceland, is the story of "The Mill at the Bottom of the Sea" (Kristensen, V, No. 27, p. 147) from Jutland. The strange mill was known to the old Norsemen. In the Edda it is in the possession of King Frodi, and the tale is told of how a sea-king robbed him of it, and had it grind salt until his ship sank with all on board.


Little May

"Little May" (Kristensen, V, No. 7, p. 57), from Jutland, like an old song with a faithfully recurring refrain, tells the story of the little shepherdess who finally secures the king of England's son for a husband.


Ederland, the Poultry-Maid

"Ederland, the Poultry-Maid" (Grundtvig, I, No. 248, p. 605), with the aid of her dead mother wrests three precious things from their possessors, the trolls. One of them, the pig that never diminishes, no matter how much bacon is sliced from it, has a relative in the Edda, the boar Salhrimnir, who is roasted daily yet does not suffer thereby. The story comes from Seeland.


Husband and Wife

"Husband and Wife" (Grundtvig, II, No. 121, p. 125) from Vendsyssel, is a delightful bit of humorous philosophy.


The Magic Hat

'"Tie Magic Hat" (Grundtvig, II, No. 428, p. 268), from Mon, is a folk-tale, dealing in humorous form with the nature of an article which often appears in more extended fairy-tales as one of three greatly desired magic belongings, and which is known in legend as the tarn-cap, or magic cap.


The Little Girl and the Serpent

"The Little Girl and the Serpent" (Grundtvig, III, No. 4, p. 15) comes from Bornholm, and is built up on the same motive as the story of "King Dragon," though presented in more concise form.



"Trillevip" (Grundtvig, II, No. 309, p. 163), from Fyn, is a clever combination of two fairy-tales, found separately in Grimm's collection. Rumpelstilzchen is the hero of the first of the Grimm stories, and his three spinners are the grotesque personages of the closing act.


The Snake

In "The Snake" (Grundtvig, II, No. 314, p. 191) from Mors, the prince whom enchantment has turned into a snake, is delivered by a kiss, but since the snake's skin he has cast off has been burned, is obliged to flee in another animal transformation, and the princess regains him only at the cost of much trouble.


The Princess on the Island

"The Princess on the Island" (Grundtvig, II, No. 308, p. 157). In this fairy-tale from Vendsyssel, there sounds an echo, perhaps, of the century-long enmity between the Danes and the English. The false bride frequently appears in fairy-tales, and is unmasked in a variety of ways. This tale is particularly attractive because of the ancient verse-inserts. There is an interesting variant to be found in Denmark and Sweden, in which the princess is imprisoned in a cave in the ground, instead of an island. This is a distinctly Northern feature, which does not appear south of Ditmarsh (W. district of Holstein); and antiquarian research has established its connection with the enormous Danish grave-mounds of the Stone Age.


The Little Wild Duck

"The Little Wild Duck" (Kristensen, Jyske Folkeminder, Bk. V, No. 16, p. 118) comes from Jutland. It introduces the ancient motive of the return, in animal form, of those who have been treacherously murdered. The laying off of the plumage is probably a half-forgotten feature of other fairy-tales, in which the bird doffs his feathers and has to keep his human shape, if someone robs him of them. (Comp. "Danish Fairy Tales," No. 45.)


King Dragon

"King Dragon" (Grundtvig, Gamle Danske Minder i Folkemunde, Copenhagen, 1855, Bk. I, No. 216, p. 172), a fairy-tale from Vendsyssel, is one of the most famous of Danish traditional tales, and introduces the favourite motive of deliverance from enchantment in animal form in a rich and individual development. (Comp. Axel Olrik, Kong Lindorm, Danske Studier, 1906, I.)


The Deer Prince

In "The Deer Prince" (Grundtvig, III, No. 37, p. 62), a fairy-tale from East Jutland, a maiden is moved by pity to question various enchanted creatures, and give them tools they can make use of, in spite of being forbidden to do so, a detail which in many fairy-tales leads to the deliverance of the hero. The bursting or breaking up into pebbles of the wicked mother and sister at the close, out of sheer envy, is a mode of destruction especially attributed in Northern legend to supernatural beings. In the "Edda," Nanna bursts asunder from grief, when she is informed of Baldur's death.


The Good Sword

"The Good Sword" (Grundtvig, III, No. 83, p. 120), from West Jutland, tells of an invincible weapon in the hands of a poor shepherd-boy, and recalls the affectionate veneration with which the sword was regarded in ancient times, a feeling which gave it an individuality and raised it to the status of a creature magically endowed with a soul, in whose name even oaths were taken.


The Patient Woman

ATU- 887. "The Patient Woman" (Grundtvig, II, No. 310, p. 167, from Seeland), is a Danish version of Boccaccio's "Griselda" The oldest known source of the novella is French, and from the Medieval Age. The story was widely circulated, and passed from Germany to Denmark, to Sweden and Norway ("Gro Selde"), finally reaching Iceland.


Peter Redhat

"Peter Redhat" (Kristensen, V, No. 13, p. 69), from Jutland, is an original variant of the story of the artful "King Bluebeard," a favourite in all Northern lands, who disguised as a vagabond, is successful in taming the arrogant princess.


Strong Jack

The ending has been slightly modified by me - TK "Strong Jack" (Grundtvig, I, No. 34, p. 33), from Seeland, is a favourite among all Teutonic peoples. It expresses their pleasure in superhuman corporal achievement, and is not devoid of mystery, since Jack's subterranean adventures probably originated in a journey to the under-world, such as was formerly ascribed by preference to gods and heroes. (Comp. Panzer, Studien zur germanischen Sagengeschichte, I, Munich, 1910, p. 44; v.d. Leyen Do* Mürchen in den Gottersagen der Edda, Berlin, 1899, p. 45.)


The Princess with the Twelve Pair of Golden Shoes

"The Princess With the Twelve Pair of Golden Shoes" (Grundtvig, III, No. 3, p. 11), from Bornholm, is also to be found in a variant form in Russia.


Jack with the Golden Hair

"Jack with the Golden Hair" (Grundtvig, II, No. 331, p. 170), comes from Vendsyssel. It is the story of "Golden Hair" or "Scabby Head," cherished far and wide during the Middle Ages because of its adventurous character. In its colourful development we catch a glimmer of the old belief in the werewolf, when the hero refuses to remove his cap because of his chronic scurf, or as in the case of many variants, when he is regarded as an animal. The flight by the aid of magic from the merman's kingdom is to be found in its essentials in the fairy-tales of all peoples.


A Moment in Heaven

The legendary dream-story of "A Moment in Heaven" (Grundtvig, III, No. 6, p. 19) from Jutland, is widely known.


The Pastor's Wife

"The Pastor's Wife" (Grundtvig, III, No. 6, p. 19), from Thy, sounds like an excerpt from some old book of moral tales. Her penance in the church at night is a curious pendant to the legend of Wolfdietrich, who as an aged man rids himself of all his sins in a cloister in the course of a single night; he sits alone at the altar during the passing of the nocturnal hours, and the spirits of all those whom he has slain surround and assail him. The rose blooming from the dead wood or stone is also a widely known symbol of divine forgiveness, used with especial effect in the Tannhauser legend.


The Pig

The story of "The Pig," from East Jutland (Grundtvig, III, No. 8, p. 24), is told in the same way in Russia.


The Ale of the Trolls

"The Ale of the Trolls" (Grundtvig, No. 107, p. 147), from the vicinity of Roskilde, proves how closely the magic power of the troll-folk was connected with the daily life of the Danish peasant.


"Never mind the money!"

Unusual stupidity is as dear to the fairy tale as unusual slyness, and "To the Devil with the money! I know what I know!" (Grundtvig, I, No. 196, p. 246), from Vendsyssel, recounts with enjoyment some notably foolish performances.


The Devil's Kindness

"The Devil's Kindness" (Grundtvig, II, No. 11, p. 52) from Fyn, tells of uncanny exhibitions of strength on the part of the devil, and makes him appear far less stupid than is usually the case in fairy tales.


The Loutish Peasant

"The Loutish Peasant" (Kristensen, V, No. 47, p. 360), from Jutland, is a merry tale, to score its titular hero, who has a hard time of it, since avarice and inhospitality are cordially detested in the fairy-tale.


The Wolf

"The Wolf" (Grundtvig, II, No. 121, p. 214), told after two variants from Vendsyssel and East Jutland, is a mock-terrible tale to frighten the children, with a happy ending.


The Walk to the Mill

"The Walk to the Mill" (Kristensen, VII, No. 23, p. 177) comes from Jutland. The stupid boy who does what he is told to do literally and thus gets himself into the most amusing complications, is no new figure. Yet the manner in which, in this tale, he slowly and painfully feels his way back to his forgotten commission along the thread of memory, gains realistic charm by reason of its keen regard for the laws of thought.


Clara Stroebe's notes to Danish folktales and fairy tales, END MATTER

Clara Stroebe's notes to Danish folktales and fairy tales, LITERATURE  

Bay, Jens Christian, tr. Danish Fairy Tales: A Collection of Popular Stories and Fairy Tales from the Danish of Svend Grundtvig, E. T. Kristensen, Ingvor Bondesen, and L. Budde. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1899.

Svend Grundtvig. Danske Folkeæventyr. Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzel, Vol. 1 1876; Vol 2. 1878.

Grundtvig, Svend, coll, ed. Gamle danske Minder i Folkemunde, Folkeæventyr, Folkeviser, Folkesagn, og andre Ræster af Fortidens Digtning og Tro, som De endnu leve i det danske Folks Erindring. Copenhagen: C. G. Iversen, 1855.

Grundtvig, Svend, E. Tang Kristensen, Ingvor Bondesen, and L. Budde. A Collection of Popular Stories and Fairy Tales From the Danish. Tr. Jens Christian Bay. London: Harper and Brothers, 1899.

Kristensen, Evald Tang, coll. Æventyr fra Jylland, samlede af Evald Tang Kristensen. Jyske Folkeminder, især fra Hammerum Herred, samlede af Evald Tang Kristensen. Femte Samling. Copenhagen: Schønberg, 1881.

Stroebe, Clara, ed. The Danish Fairy Book. Tr. Frederick Herman, Martens. New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1922.

Thorpe, Benjamin. Yule-tide Stories: A Collection of Scandinavian and North German Popular Tales and Traditions, from the Swedish, Danish, and German. London: George Bell, 1910.

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