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It is Aarne-Thompson type 900.
A beautiful, but spoiled and shallow princess rudely criticizes all her suitors because she is too proud. She is impressed with the last of her suitors, but her pride will not let her accept him. He is a young king with such a thick beard, that to her it looks like a thrush's beak, so she cruelly dubs him King Thrushbeard. The humiliated young king leaves in anger. Her father, exasperated and angry of how she scorned all her suitors, vows that the first man who comes to the palace the next day will become her husband. Meanwhile, an unknown stranger overhears the conversation.
When a young minstrel with a clean shaven face appears in the palace the next day, the king offers his daughter's hand in marriage. The minstrel disapproves of marrying the princess immediately as she does not look strong nor does she appear to be capable of any practical work. However, he notes the poor cannot be choosy and agrees to marry her. The princess opposes vehemently because he is a commoner, but the king has given his word. She marries the minstrel, who takes her away from the palace to his home.
As they travel to the minstrel's home, they pass by the fine lands and properties that belong to King Thrushbeard, and the princess begins to regret scorning him. They arrive at the minstrel's home, a house fit only for swine. The minstrel treats her as though she was a commoner and the princess is upset that she must now work for a living. The minstrel has her doing practical chores and selling pottery, at which she is completely inept. Thoroughly annoyed at his new wife, he tells her the only job left her is to work as a servant at the nearby castle of a young king: King Thrushbeard.
The princess is initially ashamed that she must work in the palace of a suitor she so harshly scorned and deeply regrets doing so, but puts her pride aside when she realizes that her husband is depending on her to help out with the household. Eventually, she swallows the last of her pride and becomes so compassionate that she throws scraps of food to the mice who live in their home because she realizes they are hungry too.
Just as her life is going smoothly, the princess discovers one day that King Thrushbeard is getting married. She is forced into the great hall by King Thrushbeard for a dance. The dance causes her pockets containing scraps of food to burst open, which spill all over the floor and everybody laughs. She is so embarrassed that she flees the hall crying.
However, much to the princess' surprise, someone helps her up. Dressed in finery is the minstrel, who smiles and asks why she is crying on her wedding day. The princess is shocked to discover the minstrel is really King Thrushbeard. He fell in love with her despite her scorn and secretly married her through her father's vow. Her ordeals were meant to cure her of her proud, spoiled ways and punishment for her cruelty towards him. She is ashamed of herself and thanks him for teaching her to be compassionate to others, telling him that she is not worthy to be his wife. But the King forgives her as he has seen that her experiences have changed her. King Thrushbeard and the Princess marry with her father at the wedding. The Princess asks before the whole court that he grow his beard once again. Her husband, from then on, is known by no other name but King Thrushbeard and they all live happily ever after.
Appearances in other media
- Thrushbeard makes a cameo appearance in Bill Willingham's Fables comic book.
- The tale is retold in an episode of Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics under the title King Grizzlebeard.
- It appeared as a storybook and cassette as part of the Once Upon a Time Fairy Tale Series under the title King Rough-Beard.
- A version is told in the book Servant of the Dragon by David Drake.
- A version of the story also appears as an episode of the cartoon series Simsala Grimm.
- A version of the story is being told on Erstwhile Tales, beginning February 2014