Maiden Bright-eye

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Maiden Bright-eye is a Danish fairy tale. Andrew Lang included it in The Pink Fairy Book. It is Aarne-Thompson type 480: the kind and the unkind girls.


A man had a son and a daughter known as Maiden Bright-eye. His wife died, and he married another woman, who had a daughter. The stepmother was cruel to her stepdaughter. One day, she sent her to watch the sheep and pull heather; she gave her pancakes where the flour had been mixed with ashes.

Maiden Bright-eye pulled up some heather and a little fellow in a red cap popped up to ask why she was pulling off the roof. She apologized and shared her dinner with him. He granted her three wishes and chose them himself: she would grow much more beautiful; a gold coin would fall from her mouth when she opened it, and her voice would be like music; and she would marry a young king. He also gave a cap, which could save her life if it were in danger, by putting it on.

She told her stepmother about meeting the little man, but not about sharing her dinner. The stepmother sent her own daughter, who was rude and received ugliness, a toad falling from her mouth when she opened it, and a violent death.

Meanwhile, the son had gone into the king's service. He went home and saw his sister. The king, hearing the tales of her beauty, asked him if they were true, and the brother said they were. The king decided to marry her and sent the brother in a ship to fetch her. The stepmother had a mask made for her daughter and sent her off with the stepchildren. But when the ship was sailing, her daughter pushed Maiden Bright-eye. The king married her, thinking she was Maiden Bright-eye, but saw her unmasked face and threw Maiden Bright-eye's brother into a pit of snakes.

Going overboard, Maiden Bright-eye had gotten the cap on her head in time, and it turned her into a duck. She swam to the king's castle, waddled up the drain to the kitchen, and met her little dog. She asked it after her brother and stepsister, and it told her their fates; she then said she would only come twice more. Serving maids had heard the talking duck, and told others. The next night, a great number came to listen. The duck asked her questions again, said she would come once more, and escaped. The third night, a cook put a net outside the drain and caught the duck. She had many gold feathers, so they took good care of her.

The brother dreamed that his sister had come to the castle as a duck and could change back if someone cut her beak. He told someone, and word got to the king. The king had him taken out and asked if he could produce his sister. He said he could if someone produced a knife and the duck. When they did, he cut the duck, and Maiden Bright-eye appeared in her own form.

The stepsister was put in a barrel with spikes all around it, and dragged off by horses, but the king married Maiden Bright-eye.

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