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Folktales on Being Helped by Tools
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Helped by Tools and Things

Our understanding of fairy tales depends on what light we study them in. This survey is in a pragmatic light, that is, we study stories to see what lessons be useful for us here and now and in the possible future.

The tales referred to on this page are described briefly in various versions and adaptations of the International Folktale Catalogue by Ørnulf Hodne (1984) and D. Ashliman (1987), Aarne and Thomson (1961), and Hans-Jörg Uther (2004). You will find the titles and classification numbers (AT numbers and ATU numbers) of the tales in the catalogues. In different catalogues, tales are described somewhat differently. ATU numbers (of Uther 2004) correspond to AT numbers (of Aarne and Thomson 1961) many times, although the descriptions of the separate tales may not always be good - mostly because many heads (tales and variants) are gathered under one umbrella (as one type of tale). Such things happen.

Below, comments to the types of tales are added to suggest what needs many old folk tales speak of, and what developments they appear to be forerunners of - according to a pragmatic understanding of many of them.

Even Norse gods had miraculous tools and things "of the trade". Equipment the Norsemen (ca. 800–1200 CE) might benefit from, appeared as tools of gods in Norse myths, and probably reflect needs of Norsemen. Norse people, and Norwegians (and Danes, Fins, and Swedes, etc.) told tales about being helped by magical objects, and many of them have become real since - they were developed through ascending technological knowledge. "It works like magic."

It stands out that many trolls had wonderful objects. The folktale hero steals them and is favoured by it - ascends to a higher class and gets wealthy too. It may in some ways be likened to espionage ways to get information about secretive devices, and then use "creative copying" to mass produce some of them.

Several wonder tales in folklore served to heighten an awareness of how to get a better life, through special equipment. Many former miraculous things have been devised in time, and are today taken for granted. One may say that tales about not yet existing objects help in focusing the attention in certain directions, and help in socialising some young ones, perhaps.

Embedded in some tales may lie hints on how to use wonderful gadgets and contraptions too.

Themes of Thirty Norwegian Fairy Tale Types on Being Helped by Tools and Things

1. First imagined, next made into products (after some hundred years or more). Among all the types of Norwegian fairy tales with variants, being helped by equipment is a key element in roughly thirty of them. The gadgets or magical objects found in myths and stories reflect on the one hand former deep-set needs among people, and spell out imagined solutions to not a few of them. Still, interestingly, many of the magic tool and things of fairy tales have since become reality. Sir Arthur C. Clarke says in this connection, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." This "law", as he calls it, needs to be qualified, here by way of paraphrase: Many accessories that people of old imagined and presented as magic things, have since become products of technology.

In most Norwegian folk tales that deal with "magic", the hero is given magic or splendid objects as rewards and by help of them he wins a good hold in life.

It is a great challenge in modern times to learn to master equipment, for optimal benefit. Minimizing damages, counting the cost, bulwarking against great risks are also elements to master: learning to develop and handle tools and equipment.

2. Striving to understand images: Sigmund Freud thought dreams were symbolical expressions of hidden desires, needs, etc. In Jung's view, a dream is an interior drama: "The whole dream-work is essentially subjective, and a dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic." Jungians adapt aspects of folk tales to the theoretical system and constructs of Carl G. Jung, which is far less reductionistic than Sigmund Freud's. Through Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis (TA) one may also compare certain happenings to the further evolved "life scripts" for possible benefit.

The content of many nightly dreams and the fantastic and surreal imaginations of folklore seem much relatable to one another, insofar as dream topics can reflect both deeply felt wants and solutions. In folklore most solutions turn out to be imagined, but in the arena of technology and science some ideations are explored and turned into reality. Here is one example of it:

3. Employing images: "Creative achievements are instigated by dreams or forms of dreaming as the regular case. Spontaneous forms of consciousness try out in a groping manner possible solutions and present them to waking consciousness in sudden Eurekas," says Franz Strunz. And Nobel prizeman Kekule (1890) says, by way of warning, something further to adjust to, "Let us beware of publishing our dreams until they have been tested by the waking understanding."

Albert Einstein discovered the special theory of relativity one day he lay daydreaming on a hill one summer's day. He imagined he rode on sunbeams to the outer end of the universe, and then came back to the surface of the sun. From that he concluded that the universe had to be curved, against anything he had learnt about it earlier. It took him years to prove his ideas mathematically. Now they have massive support in modern physics.

Physicists like Albert Einstein and Richard P. Feynman have both described the metaphoric, image-rich thought processes they had during some of their most original scientific discoveries. Images can inspire further thought, and that appears to be a basic principle, both in art and science and elsewhere.

4. Very helpful objects of Norwegian folk tales. Norwegian folk tales show help by what was then magic objects. Through recent technological development many of earlier, dreamt-of devices are in full use among people.

Norwegian folktales with AT numbers and notes. Some tales have not got any allotted AT number so far. They are marked AT -.

(Note: A national tale and its international type of tale with one and the same AT number - can have different titles/headings.


Thirty Types of Folk Tales on Being Helped by Tools and Things

The girl as helper in the hero's flight (AT 313)

The hero comes into an ogre's power, and is assigned impossible tasks: clean out a stable, build a bridge, go for wild horses, etc. He receives help from a bewitched girl/princess. They run away from the ogre by transforming themselves into a man with a cow, duck and water, tussock with straw etc., and leave behind them magic objects which are transmuted and stop the ogre. Then the boy loses the girl because he breaks a taboo, forgets her etc. She settles down in a cabin, where three rich visitors come to court her, but she paralyses them into humiliating positions. The hero is on his way to marry another woman, but his wagon is damaged, and he has to borrow things from the girl in the cabin in order to reach the church. At the wedding table she gives him her tokens of fidelity, is recognized, and takes her rightful place as bride.

  • The witchcraft flight suggests a need to be transmuted and still recognized in order to be married well. A family life depends in part on that.
  • When a woman helps her man from the ogre, she could have in mind to marry him.

The smith outwits the devil (AT 330)

A blacksmith makes a contract with the devil so that in return for becoming a master smith he is to belong to the devil after a certain time. The Lord/St. Peter visits the smith and works miracles, which the smith can't copy. He is given three wishes, and he wants to have objects which give him power over the devil. The devil becomes afraid of him, and finally refuses him admittance to hell. The smith tries his luck in heaven, but the outcome of this attempt is rather uncertain. The smith outwits the devil by way of objects which give him power over him (or her).

  • The smith cannot copy the Lord.
  • The outcome of outwitting the devil seems uncertain.
  • To be refused hell, is it good or bad or something very different?.

The man on a quest for his lost wife (AT 400)

The man is carried to a foreign place in a self-propelling boat. He finds a bewitched princess (or three) there, and rescues and marries the youngest. He gets a wishing ring, disobeys the prohibitions around it, and loses his wife. Unlike Ola he then sets out in search of her and is helped by supernatural beings (an old women, an eagle, the north wind, etc.) and remedies like an invisibility hat, and seven-mile boots. The lost wife, who is about to be remarry, again wants to be united with her first man.

  • If Tom, Dick, and Harry walk with long strides, it is peanuts compared to seven-mile boots or speed-walking, padalepa-siddhi or lung-gom (gom is mastery). An adept at ung-gom-pa is said to be able to walk at great speed over long distances without tiring. Alexandra David-Neel describes such a one. His face was calm and impassive, his eyes wide-open, and his gaze fixed on some invisible far-distant object high up in space. The man seemed to lift himself from the ground, proceeding by leaps. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum.

The search for the lost husband (AT 425)

A girl is promised to someone that looks worse than a farmer when he comes in after a day's work in the fields and mud. But the fairy tale monster (white bear, wolf) is a transformed prince, and he sets down the conditions for how things are to be. The woman breaks the prohibitions and loses him. Then she has to wander about in sorrow, trying to recover him. On her way she gets exactly the things she needs - the tools for climbing mountain walls - in order to liberate her husband or get him back. Besides, the false bride dies.

  • Even tools for climbing poles serve man very well.

The monster's bride (AT 507A)

The monster could be a father-in-law at worst. Like an amorous strip character the folk tale hero dreams about a beautiful woman and sets out to find her. On the way the hero helps a dead man (frozen in a block of ice). The grateful dead becomes the hero's incognito fellow-traveller and helper. He gets hold of magic things that are later used to help the youth perform difficult tests and rescue the woman from her monster.

  • The tale is about finding a bride, free her from unsuitable attachments and the like, by use of special things, including ill-treatment.
  • There are some who have chosen to get deep-frozen in the hope of another resurrection than what the faith speaks of.
  • What works like magic is at times equipment we do not understand enough of.

In The Helpers (AT 513)

The want is to build a ship that goes both on land and on water, just as the Norse boat Skibladner, owned by Frey. In the tale an old man with lots of experience builds the magic ship in return for friendly intercourse and food. On the way to the king's court - more central than Fargo, even - the hero is joined one after the other by extremely specialized people, counterparts of modern specialists. For example, the helper who can hear the grass grow, has exceptionally acute senses. Today we have microphones that "listen through windows and walls" in similar manner, and telescopes, radar, and much else that are related to improved sense organs. The hero, assisted by his experts on the boat, succeeds in doing all the things he needs to do to win his woman.

  • Through specialization and joint efforts some find a way to gains even today.
  • The hankerings on the prairie may not be for boats as for planes - cars as roads were developed.
  • Comfortable and fast transportation is a deep need of humans.
  • Means of transport and able friends makes it possible to rise socially, so that one has what it takes to get married and so on.

The Raven Helper (AT appendix)

A raven's three sisters give very good swords and an armour to a boy. He brings his objects to a king's castle. Here three princesses are promised to a monster, and the tale passes into AT 300.

  • Very good materials, developed for space trips, are frequently used as bullet-proof vests nowadays.
  • One has to fight to derive benefits. Peter and Paul of folklore may swerve from it, unlike the fairy tale hero.
  • Weapons and shields go together.

The Magic Ring (AT 560)

A boy receives a magic dog, a cat, and a basket with a lizard that is a bewitched prince. He disenchants the prince and receives a wishing ring. He then proposes to a princess and performs the tasks she enjoins on him. Through trickery she picks up the ring and wishes him to be poor again. He recovers the missing objects and is set free from the dungeon with the help of the grateful cat and dog.

  • Valuable objects may be hard to get, and they liked by many. Some of them steal and are hard to deal with.
  • There is a need to protect one's assets once they are got and not trust anyone, it seems.
  • Farmers of old found fences necessary.
  • Farm animals were helpful, but not a slut.
  • Wishing-rings are plenteous in Arab tales too.
  • Wedding rings, wishing rings -.

Aladdin (AT 561)

is about a youngster who fetches a magic lamp from inside a mountain by means of a wishing ring. The magic lamp gives him a castle and a princess, but as things turn out, his wonderful wife has to kill for him to help him recover her and all his belongings.

  • The fit fiancé and wife will even kill crooks for the one she loves.
  • In our days some aspects of the "magic lamp" have arrived, in that we have electrical lighting, auto-charging lights for garden walks, the driveway, crystal lights for fun for window panes, etc.
  • A helping, young woman of high class is nothing unusual in Arab tales.

The table, the ass, and the stick (AT 563)

A poor lad gets wonderful objects from the north wind, the elves, etc.: a table cloth that supplies itself with food, a gold-dropping he-goat, a purse that never becomes empty. He sells or is robbed of the objects. Finally he receives a stick that beats an enemy until called off by its owner. By means of it the other objects are recovered.

  • A cloth for food, a goat that evacuates gold, a purse that never runs dry, these are strong wishes, and as such indicate conditions of poverty.
  • To have valuable things, increases the need to take care of them, in particular among greedy ones.
  • En passant, "Speak softly and carry a big stick" is a Western African proverb often attributed to Teddy Roosevelt.
  • New stun guns come very close to the effect of the folk tale stick.

The magic mill (AT 565)

A poor man enters hell with a piece of meat, and receives in return a magic mill that grinds everything, and makes him rich. Another man (his greedy brother or neighbour) borrows the mill, but does not learn how to stop it, and must pay the owner to do so. A ship-captain buys it, and takes it aboard ship, where he commands it to grind salt. He cannot stop it either, and it sinks the ship and keeps on grinding. This is why the sea is salt (think twice).

  • Folk tales tend to reflect the wishes of people of former days, when such things as salt and sugar were craved a lot, but could be hard to get.
  • Scientists are fond of playing with protons and such stuff still.
  • Equipment that can work for very long and do a lot, has to be turned off in time.

The knapsack, the hat and the horn (AT 569)

Three tailors want to try their luck. The first two are satisfied when they find an apple-tree with silver flowers and another with golden apples. The third one travels further and obtains a magic table cloth from an old woman. He exchanges it for a cartridge-box with ten thousand soldiers, and lets them secure the first object again. The king takes the cloth, but the soldiers compel him to surrender it.

  • One has to be able to defend valuable assets, or they can be stolen.
  • The more valuable assets, the harder it may get to keep them.
  • Having soldiers in a box is not very far from having soldiers "stored" in barracks, surrounded by guards and high fences and barbed wire - locked up like a bunch of animals to be able to preserve our peace later, hopefully.
  • One may have to venture far to arrive at the valuable thing or asset.

The rabbit-herd (AT 570)

A king has offered his daughter as a prize to the man who can herd his hares/rabbits/goats. The youngest of three brothers succeeds in gathering the animals because he gets a magic pipe from a grateful old woman. The king's family tries without success to trick the pipe from him, and each of them has to buy it with an erotic/obscene act. Finally the king orders him to tell a vat full of lies. He begins to tell until the king (queen) makes him stop and gives him the princess. He/she does not want to get embarrassed.

  • The dog's whistle with sounds well above 20.000 Hz could have had its forerunners.
  • Some forms of music have a good reputation for influencing the emotions of folks.

The king's tasks (AT 577)

A king offers his daughter in marriage to the man who can perform certain tasks for him (cut down a large oak, dig a well). The youngest of three poor brothers succeeds by means of some (magic) things he pays attention to/receives on their way to the king's court: a nut, an axe, a pick.

  • The "magical axe" has been devised already: The chain saw was made to fulfil the need to chop down trees faster, better, and with more ease. And caterpillars with built-in saws, cranes and truck bodies for the timber go still further. They are in use.
  • Steam shovels and other counterparts to the "magic pick" abound too, nowadays, all technological.
  • The nut of freshwater has not been devised yet. It could become almost incredibly useful in the Sahara Desert.

Beloved of women (AT 580)

Each of three brothers has his own wish. The youngest wishes for and receives the power to make women love him. In each of three inns the hostess falls in love with him and makes him a present of a magic thing (scissors, cloth, beer-tap) which he makes a good living with. At last he is admitted to the princess's chamber. She falls in love with him and marries him.

  • To make women warm and giving requires strong magic, the tale. implies.
  • The sheer amount of wonder gadgets indicates how hard it was to transverse the walls between the social classes of yore.
  • We have "electrical-magic" scissors today, but not clothes that produce food. Sewing machines and knitting machines are at work, though.
  • Cheap beer is had, but not free beer (there is no such thing as a free lunch).
  • Hence, some progress has been made on the way to transform daily life into a fairy tale life by way of contraptions.

The thieving pot (AT 591)

A poor man and his wife get a magic pot, which brings them food and money from a rich parson/king. Afterwards the pot disappears.

  • The exploits of the pot look like some that can be done by robots today.
  • When we need help from a magic pot to survive and get richer by stealing, we have gone down a lot for it.
  • Robots may be devoid of conscience, and those who depend on robots may become so too, in time (Possible Brave New World perspectives).

The dance among thorns (AT 592)

A boy gives his pittance to a poor man, who in return grants the boy three wishes: a self-filling purse, a never-failing gun, a fiddle that compels people to dance, etc. He uses the magic objects to gain wealth, take vengeance on his former master and the magistrates, and compromise their daughters. Finally he is brought to trial for his misdeeds and condemned to be hanged. He gets permission to play his fiddle and compels the Judge and whole assembly to dance until he is released.

  • The fiddle that people have to dance to, indicates a wish to be liked and steer what happens.
  • The tale eventually indicates an outré need for revenge.
  • The self-filling purse indicates poverty and a need to be wealthy, and for thousands of years weapons that hit well and never fail have been desired.
  • The weapon industry has hatched out rockets that find their targets automatically, advanced sights on guns, means to see and aim and shoot in the night, and much else.
  • A modern correspondence to the dancing fiddle is the loudspeaker-adapted band that threaten the hearing.

The magic bridle (AT 594*)

A boy conceived under a birch tree goes out to do business, and gets in exchange a bridle that tames all kinds of horses, a needle that makes everything fall to pieces, and a gun that always hits what he aims at. He lives as a servant in a king's court, and performs so great exploits by means of the magic objects, that he wins the youngest princess.

  • The tales says that he who lives as a servant, has to do great deeds in order to be counted among the well off, those with privileges far and wide.
  • For thousands of years humans have got it much better by taming kind animals and making good use of them. Halters have their uses within that scenario.
  • A destructive needle, it could be a poisoned one, or what is found at the end of the Bulgarian umbrella.
  • The often repeated wish for guns reflect on the one hand that some people, especially hunters, lived on game, and game is shy, which in turn increases the need to hit well, even from afar.
  • Even excellent handling of farm animals rests on something natural that has been broken down in part. Man lives on top of that, through exploitations of various sorts and degrees.

The gifts of the dwarfs (AT 611)

A poor boy is adopted by a rich merchant, but is sent to sea when he falls in love with the merchant's daughter. In a foreign country he is rewarded with magic objects by trolls. He heals a sick princess and returns home as a rich man and marries his first love.

  • This "folk recipe" could work well if we fin trolls and get magical objects from them.
  • When a poor guy heals the daughter of a king, his pay could well be to get the girl in marriage, as the art of healing was highly thought of in former days, when ill persons became terribly ill and desperate for the lack of the plethora of modern medicines.
  • When a poor guy heals the well off, he may in turn afford marrying his first love.
  • Many great healers have become respectable ones, in part in spite of their origins.
  • Some want to tame and kill, others want to heal and thrill: there are differences among people.

The princess with the golden ball (AT-)

A princess playing with a golden ball loses it in a well. A frog promises to get it back for her if she will marry him. On the wedding day she throws the frog furiously against the wall. It is immediately changed into a prince, who tells her that the ill-treatment has disenchanted him. The wedding continues with the prince as bridegroom.

  • Who went astray, will probably accept a ball of golden yarn. The ball for finding the way, is related to the old Greek tale of Thesevs in the maze. He got a ball by Ariadne, and hence the term Ariadne thread.
  • The tale concerns the desire to be accepted.
  • Road maps and compasses and satellite navigation systems makes it far easier to find one's way.

The magic hazel stick (AT-)

A poor boy (Hans Furuvald) makes a marvellous career by means of a magic hazel stick, which makes it possible to cross waters dry-shod and reign over life and death. He participates in a war, becomes a general and prince, and marries a princess. Later he returns home and reveals his identity.

  • The hazel has a very good reputation in folklore after the Celts, and is credited with a miracle-working power in Grimm tales too.
  • In hospitals patients with failing hearts are "shocked" back to life at times.

The man who competed with the devil in mowing the grass (AT-)

A man competes with the devil/an ogre in mowing the grass and wins because he uses a magic scythe that never gets blunt.

  • The dream is a scythe that does not get blunt. Today, where farming has become mechanised, the mowing machine (reaper) appears to have driven away the need for such a scythe. But in poor countries the dream should live on -.
  • People with lawn mowers hardly ever dream of magic scythes, it seems.

The three brothers (AT-)

The youngest of three brothers gives away his food to an old woman and gets a supernatural box as reward. Using this he helps a smith to get out of an impossible bargain with a king, and he is ordered to protect the king's cattle against three ogres. He kills them one after another and is enabled to lay hands on their wealth. As a kitchen hand in the palace he proposes incognito to an enchanted princess by means of a golden armour, and she attaches a golden apple to his knee. Later she points him out as her rescuer to the king. When the king finds out how rich he is, he accepts him as his son-in-law. Then he goes home and confronts his parents and brothers, first as himself, then as a prince.

  • Ever since the time of Greek stories, where evils were put into Pandora's box, boxes may contain so many strange and interesting things.
  • The need to get stunningly rich and thereby accepted as a son-in-law, does not show one is well married. To the contrary, assumedly.
  • He who thinks he has to get stinking rich before he can confront parents and siblings as a prince, hardly comes from a good family, either.
  • According to Freud, boxes, bags, trunks and boxes represent the female organs.

The three riders who wanted to go to Paris (AT-)

Three friends who are seeking their fortune eat a magical bird, and they all get some thing that brings them luck. One of them gets a purse that will never be empty, the second one a bag that mobilizes 15 soldiers for every blow he gives it, while the youngest one sees his future bride. This is the same princess as a king has promised to the person who can free his kingdom of a dragon. The youngest succeeds and marries her. The other two give false evidence against them, and persuade the king to put them in prison and sentence their children, a boy and a girl, to death. They are rescued by the maid and grow up with the king's miller. After a time they are recognized because of their golden hair and have to flee. At last they return to the king's palace, persuade the king to set free their parents and expose the delinquents.

  • In this tale there is a purse that brings forth fifteen soldiers at a time. Solders are needed in rought times, and in between they need to be "tucked away" quite a lot. Some rich and influential persons have counterparts to sackfuls of soldiers: they gather bodyguards, cell phones and maybe they put some trust in the police too.
  • Criminals need to be exposed; merely wanting to punish them, will not do.
  • Living as a rentier can be pleasant, very much like having a purse (account) that will not run dry.
  • Farsight training has some documented effects. Through it many persons have viewed certain things or happenings afar without having recourse to TVs and cell phones for the feat. (jf. Jessica Utts 1995).

The wonderful player (AT-)

The wonderful player frees a town of its mice and rats by playing in such a manner that the animals follow him into the sea and are drowned. When the citizens cheat him of his promised reward, he takes his revenge by playing so that all the children in the town vanish into a mountain.

  • Some play to attract others, others play to send others away. The first is not the easier of the two.
  • Both animals and children enjoy good music. Music speaks to the heart, and both animals and children have their hearts.
  • Nowadays there is equipment to scare off vermin - moles and undesired birds by vibrations of sound.

The young Alv (AT-)

An old man is going to divide his fortune between his three sons and gives all three of them a task to perform in order to prove who is the proper one to inherit his very best heirloom - a ring of fortune. The youngest one, the young Alv, helps an old woman and gets a gun with magical bullets. By means of this he shoots an elk and wins the ring. Contrary to his brothers he then performs two impossible tasks for the king: he shoots the troll bear that kills the king's cows, and provides him with new cows instead by killing a giantess in the giant's garden, by emptying molten lead into her eyes. At last he rescues the king's son and wins the princess and half of the kingdom.

  • Times are tough when the task to do be done requires miracle items.
  • One is halfway pressed into much use of technology.
  • To rise to the top, there is a need to be tough, perhaps tougher than all the rest.
  • There is something hard about the luck that is rooted in shooting and killing.

NOTE: Some fairy tales entertain by presenting magical objects. Others entertain by them and special animals. And still other fairy tales entertain by animals only. These are three different types.

The spinning women by the spring (AT 480)

The kind one of two (step-)sisters must set out on a journey to get a situation, or she may fall into/be thrown into a well, because she loses a spinning-contest. On the way she gives help to animals and other objects which need her. She enters the service of a supernatural person (troll, witch, the Virgin Mary), who assigns her difficult and impossible tasks. But she is aided by the birds, and they also advise her in choosing a reward. The witch pursues her on the way home, but the grateful animals and objects help her in her flight. The other sister attempts to imitate the success, but she is evil and disobedient and is punished.

  • Grateful beings and objects may try to help the considerate young one still.
  • Animals and birds may solve well-nigh impossible tasks in return for favours done - that is the hope of many fairy tales. Many animals are splendid advisors too - in folklore. In the socialization processes that folk tales were included in, disobedient ones were punished.
  • When fine and hearty folks are helped on and up, it feels good, as an instance of "poetic justice".
  • The tale is for socialization.

The spirit in the blue light (AT 562)

A king holds his beautiful daughter imprisoned in a tower. A soldier on guard wants to see her, and is promised help from an old woman if he will fetch her tinder-box. He searches three underground treasuries watched by three supernatural dogs, and finds the tinder-box. It makes the dogs his servants, and they bring him the princess. The love intrigue is discovered, she is caught in a pitfall, and the soldier is sentenced to death. At the place of execution he gets a last wish. He wishes for the tinder-box, and the dogs appear and rescue him.

  • When you stake your future on supernatural dogs, you are far out.
  • The last wish of this tale indicates that animal brutality had become the only way. Compare the proverb "As the dog is, so is his master" (Aasen 1881, 63-64)."
  • Lighters and matches of today work better than the tinder-boxes of yore.

The prince and the arm bands (AT 590)

A boy travelling with his mother stays with an ogre, or a prince and his sister fleeing from their father, who will compel them to incest, come to a den of robbers. The mother/princess conspires against the boy and tries to kill him. The mother feigns sickness and sends him on a quest for medicine: lion's milk and magic apples. Instead of killing him, the lions become his true servants, and by means of them and a blue band (belt) which gives him supernatural strength, he overcomes his enemies and wins a princess.

  • Wonder apples are found in Norse mythology, Celtic mythology and further.
  • A magic belt that gives strength, is one of the magic things of Norse Thor.
  • Today, some athletes try to get aided by drugs to get strong as lions or whatever, and fail.

The danced-out shoes (AT 306)

The King promises one of his daughters in marriage to the man who can find out why they wear out their shoes every night. The youngest of three brothers refuses a sleeping draught offered by the princesses and discovers that they go dancing with three princes/elves in a foreign country by making himself invisible and following them on a subterranean journey. He confirms by proof (a silver goblet) what he has seen and is given the hand of the youngest princess in marriage.

  • The aim is to get wed to someone who is really well off. That seldom happens to boys.
  • To get invisible is the great feature in this tale. Some crugs may put others to sleep. When they are drugged or fainted, one counts for invisible among them.

Legends and Tales Intertwine

Legends give us insight in group fantasies, says Birgit Hertzberg Johnsen. Legends and folk tales intermingle and make classifications more difficult. For example, the Norwegian legend "Gullfebla" shows a yearning for better cattle, cattle that produces more and fatter milk. Selective breeding has brought forth much improved farm animals far and wide.

"The giant and Johannes Blessom" is a legend - variants are found in Sweden and Norway alike - that hints at an urge to ride like birds. Leonardo was into it, and the brothers Wright, among others. Miraculous rides have been described since medieval times. Helicopters and air planes have been developed extensively so that we can "ride like birds" or "ride on big birds".


Tool-tales, folktales on being helped by tools, gear and other equipment, Literature  

Aarne, Antti. The Types of the Folktale: A Classification and Bibliography. Translated and Enlarged by Stith Thompson. 2nd rev. ed. Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia / FF Communications, 1961.

Ashliman, D. A Guide to Folktales in the English Language. New York: Greenwood, 1987.

Evans-Wentz, Walter Y., ed. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.

Hodne, Ørnulf. The Types of the Norwegian Folktale. Bergen: Universitetsforlaget, 1984.

Uther, Hans-Jörg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vols 1-3. FF Communications No. 284-86, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.

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