The Golden Bird

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The Golden Bird
Der goldene Vogel.jpg
The gardener's youngest son sights the Golden Bird in the king's garden.
Folk tale
NameThe Golden Bird
Data
Aarne-Thompson groupingATU 550 (The Quest for the Golden Bird; The Quest for the Firebird; Bird, Horse and Princess)
RegionGermany
Published inKinder- und Hausmärchen, by the Brothers Grimm (1812)
RelatedThe Bird 'Grip'; The Greek Princess and the Young Gardener; Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf; How Ian Direach got the Blue Falcon; The Nunda, Eater of People

"The Golden Bird (German: Der goldene Vogel) is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm (KHM 57) about the pursuit of a golden bird by a gardener's three sons.[1]

It is Aarne-Thompson folktale type 550, "The Golden Bird", a Supernatural Helper. Other tales of this type include The Bird 'Grip', The Greek Princess and the Young Gardener, Tsarevitch Ivan, the Fire Bird and the Gray Wolf, How Ian Direach got the Blue Falcon, and The Nunda, Eater of People.[2]

Origin[edit]

A similar version of the story was previously collected in 1808 and published as Der weisse Taube ("The White Dove"), provided by Ms. Gretchen Wild and published along The Golden Bird in the first edition of the Brothers Grimm compilation. In the original tale, the youngest son of the king is known as Dummling,[3] a typical name for naïve or foolish characters in German fairy tales.[4] In newer editions that restore the original tale, it is known as "The Simpleton".[5]

Synopsis[edit]

"The Golden Bird" collected by the Brothers Grimm and first published in 1812, narrated and recorded on December 14, 2008.

Every year, a king's apple tree is robbed of one golden apple during the night. He sets his gardener's sons to watch, and though the first two fall asleep, the youngest stays awake and sees that the thief is a golden bird. He tries to shoot it, but only knocks a feather off.

The feather is so valuable that the king decides he must have the bird. He sends his gardener's three sons, one after another, to capture the priceless golden bird. The sons each meet a talking fox, who gives them advice for their quest: to choose a bad inn over a brightly lit and merry one. The first two sons ignore the advice and, in the pleasant inn, abandon their quest.

The third son obeys the fox, so the fox advises him to take the bird in its wooden cage from the castle in which it lives, instead of putting it into the golden cage next to it. But he disobeys, and the golden bird rouses the castle, resulting in his capture. He is sent after the golden horse as a condition for sparing his life. The fox advises him to use a leather saddle rather than a golden one, but he fails again. He is sent after the princess from the golden castle. The fox advises him not to let her say farewell to her parents, but he disobeys, and the princess's father orders him to remove a hill as the price of his life.

The fox removes it, and then, as they set out, he advises the prince how to keep all the things he has won since then. It then asks the prince to shoot it and cut off its head. When the prince refuses, it warns him against buying gallows' flesh and sitting on the edge of rivers.

He finds that his brothers, who have been carousing and living sinfully in the meantime, are to be hanged (on the gallows) and buys their liberty. They find out what he has done. When he sits on a river's edge, they push him in. They take the things and the princess and bring them to their father. However the bird, the horse, and the princess all grieve for the youngest son. The fox rescues the prince. When he returns to his father's castle dressed in a beggar's cloak, the bird, the horse, and the princess all recognize him as the man who won them, and become cheerful again. His brothers are put to death, and he marries the princess.

Finally, the third son cuts off the fox's head and feet at the creature's request. The fox is revealed to be a man, the brother of the princess.

Analysis[edit]

The animal helper[edit]

The prince rides on the fox's back. Illustration by George Cruikshank for Grimm's Goblins, by Edgar Taylor (1823).

The helper of the hero differs between versions: usually a fox or a wolf in most versions, but very rarely there is another type of animal, like a lion,[6] a bear[7] or a hare.[8] In some variants, it is a grateful dead who helps the hero as retribution for a good deed of the protagonist.[9]

In a variant collected in Austria, by Ignaz and Joseph Zingerle (Der Vogel Phönix, das Wasser des Lebens und die Wunderblume, or "The Phoenix Bird, the Water of Life and the Most beautiful Flower"),[10] the tale begins with the motif of the birth of twin wonder-children, akin to The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird. Cast away from home, the twins grow up and take refuge in their (unbeknownst to them) father's house, it's their aunt herself who asks for the items, and the fox who helps the hero is his mother's reincarnation.[11]

The bird as the object of the quest[edit]

The character of the Golden Bird has been noted to resemble the mythological phoenix bird.[12] Indeed, in many variants the hero quests for the Phoenix bird.[13]

The Golden Bird of the Brothers Grimm tale can be seen as a counterpart to the Firebird of Slavic folklore, a bird said to possess magical powers and a radiant brilliance, in many fairy tales.[14] The Slavic Firebird can also be known by the name Ohnivak[15] Zhar Bird[16] or Bird Zhar;[17] Glowing Bird,[18] or The Bird of Light.[19]

Sometimes, the king or the hero's father send the hero on his quest for the bird to cure him of his illness or blindness, instead of finding out who has been destroying his garden and/or stealing his precious golden apples.[20] Under this lens, the tale veers close to ATU 551, "The Water of Life" (The Sons on a quest for a wonderful remedy for their father), also collected by the Brothers Grimm.[21]

In many variants, the reason for the quest is to bring the bird to decorate a newly-built church,[22] temple or mosque,[23] as per the suggestion of a passing beggar or hermit that informed the king of its existence.[24][25][26]

In 20th century Dutch collections, the bird is sometimes called Vogel Vinus or Vogel Venus. Scholarship suggests that the name is a corruption of the name Phönix by the narrators.[27]

The horse as the object of the quest[edit]

The horse of the variants of the tale is sometimes referenced along with the bird, attached to a special trait, such as in Flemish versions Van de Gouden Vogel, het Gouden Peerde en de Prinses,[28] and Van de wonderschoone Prinses, het zilveren Paardeken en de gouden Vogel,[29] and in French-Flanders version Van Vogel Venus, Peerdeken-Muishaar en Glooremonde.[30]

The horse, in many variants of the tale, is the means by which the hero escapes with the princess. In one Italian variant, the horse is described as irraggiungibile ("unreachable").[31]

The princess as the object of the quest[edit]

In the title of many variants, the Princess as the last object the hero's quest is referenced in the title. The tales usually reference a peculiar characteristic or special trait, such as in Corsican variant La jument qui marche comme le vent, l'oiseau qui chante et joue de la musique et la dame des sept beautés (Corsican: "A jumenta chi biaghja quant'u ventu, l'agellu chi canta e chi sona, a donna di sette bellezze"; English: "The she-donkey that rides like the wind, the bird that sings and plays music, and the maiden of seven beauties"), collected by Genevieve Massignon.[32]

In Italian variant L'acqua di l'occhi e la bella di setti veli ("The water for the eyes and the beauty with seven veils"), the prince is sent on a quest for "l'acqua di l'occhi", the beauty with seven veils, the talking horse and the "aceddu Bonvirdi" (a kind of bird).[33]

In Romanian variant Pasărea cîntă, domnii dorm, the emperor asks for the golden bird whose song make men sleep. His son travels the lands for the fabled bird, and discovers its owner is the princess of the golden kingdom.[34]

Variants[edit]

It has been noted that the tale "is told in Middle East and in Europe",[35] but its variants are present in traditions from the world over.[36]

Swedish folktale collectors George Stephens and Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius suggested an Eastern origin for the story.[37]

Literary history[edit]

The Golden Bird (from Household stories from the collection of the bros. Grimm (1914)

Scholars Stith Thompson, Johannes Bolte and Jiří Polívka traced a long literary history of the tale type:[38] an ancient version is attested in The Arabian Nights.

A story titled Sagan af Artus Fagra is reported to contain a tale of three brothers, Carolo, Vilhiamo and Arturo of the Fagra clan, sons of the King of the Angles, who depart to India on a quest for the Phoenix bird to heal their father.[39] It was published in an Icelandic manuscript of the XIVth century.[40][41] Swedish folktale collectors George Stephens and Gunnar Olof Hyltén-Cavallius listed Danish tale Kong Edvard och Prints Artus,[42] collected in 1816, as a story related to Sagan of Artus Fagra.[43]

Dutch scholarship states that a Flemish medieval manuscript from the 11th century, Roman van Walewein (en het schaakspel) (English: "The Romance of Walewein (and the chessboard)") (nl), is an ancestor of the ATU 550 tale type.[44][45]

Oral versions[edit]

Europe[edit]

A French version, collected by Paul Sébillot in Littérature orale de la Haute-Bretagne, is called Le Merle d'or (The Golden Blackbird). Andrew Lang included that variant in The Green Fairy Book (1892).[46][47] In The Golden Blackbird, the gardener's son set out because the doctors have prescribed the golden blackbird for their ill father. The two older brothers are allured into the inn without any warning, and the youngest meets the talking hare that aids him only after he passes it by. The horse is featured only as a purchase, and he did not have to perform two tasks to win the Porcelain Maiden, the princess figure. Also, the hare is not transformed at the end of the tale.[48]

In a Galician tale, O Páxaro de Ouro, the king owns an orchard where there is a tree with red Portuguese apples that are stolen by the titular golden bird.[49]

In a Romanian variant, Boy-Beautiful, the Golden Apples, and the Were-Wolf, the sons of the emperor investigate who has been eating the emperor's prized apples, and the youngest prince (possibly Făt-Frumos) finds two shining golden feathers in the foliage.[50]

Folklorist Jeremiah Curtin noted that the Russian, Slavic and German variants are many,[51] such as Die drei Gärtnerssöhne ("The gardener's three sons");[52] or Der Goldvogel, das Goldpferd und die Prinzeßin, by German theologue Johann Andreas Christian Löhr.[53]

In a Polish variant, About Jan the Prince, the fabled bird is named The Flamebird.[54] The tale was originally collectted by Antoni Josef Glinski, with the title O Janie królewiczu, żar-ptaku i o wilku wiatrolocie ("About Jan the Prince, the Flamebird and the Wind-like Wolf").[55]

In a "Scottish-Tinker" tale, The Fox, Brian, the son of the King of Greece, in order to marry the hen's wife, must quest for "the most marvellous bird" in the world, the White Glaive of Light and the Sun Goddess, "daughter of the king of the gathering of Fionn". He is helped in his tasks by a fox, which is the Sun Goddess's brother transformed.[56]

In a Yugoslavian variant, The Little Lame Fox, Janko, the naive but good-hearted youngest son of a farmer, is helped by a fox in his quest for the Golden Apple-Tree, the Golden Horse, the Golden Cradle and the Golden Maiden. The Golden Maiden, a princess herself, insists that she will marry Janko, for his good and brave heart.[57]

In Romanian variant Povestea lupului năsdrăvan şi a Ilenei Cosinzene, a wolf helps the prince in his quest for the feather of a golden dove, a golden apple, a horse and the legendary princess Ileana Cosânzeana. When the king's other sons kill the prince, the apple wilts, the dove becomes a black raven and the horse and the princess vanish into the sky.[58]

An Irish variant of the type, published in 1936 (Le roi magicien sous la terre), seems to contain the Celtic motif of "the journey to the Other World".[59]

A scholarly inquiry by Italian Istituto centrale per i beni sonori ed audiovisivi ("Central Institute of Sound and Audiovisual Heritage"), produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, found thirteen variants of the tale across Italian sources, under the name La Ricerca dell'Uccello d'Oro.[60]

Scandinavian variants[edit]

Variants from Scandinavian countries have been attested in the works of Svend Grundtvig (Danish variant "The Golden Bird" or Guldfuglen)[61][62] and Peter Asbjornsen (Norwegian variant "The Golden Bird" or Gullfuglen).[63][64][65]

Asia[edit]

In an Indian variant, In Search of a Dream, the youngest prince quests for an emerald bird, because his father, the king, had a dream about a beautiful garden, with a tree in it where the bird was perched. Apart from this tale, scholarship points the existence of twenty-seven variants collected from all over India.[66]

Americas[edit]

A similar variant fairy tale of French-Canadian origin is The Golden Phoenix collected by Marius Barbeau, and retold by Michael Hornyansky. It follows the hero Petit Jean, the youngest son of the King, who discovers the thief of his father's golden apple to be a golden Phoenix, a legendary bird. Other differences include a battle with 3 mythical beasts, a Sultan's game of hide-and-seek and his marriage with the Sultan's beautiful daughter.

Variants have been recorded from American regions and states: a version named The Golden Duck from West Virginia;[67] a tale The King's Golden Apple Tree, from Kentucky;[68] a version from the American Southwest.[69]

J. Alden Mason collected a variant from Mexico, titled Cuento del Pájaro del Dulce Canto (English: "The Bird of the Sweet Song").[70]

In a Brazilian variant collected by Silvio Romero in Sergipe, A Raposinha (English: "The little fox"), a prince stops three men from beating a dead person, and in gratitude is helped by a fox in his search for a parrot from the Kingdom of Parrots as a cure for the king's blindness.[71]

Literary versions[edit]

French author Edouard Laboulaye included a literary version named The Three Wonders of the World in his book Last Fairy Tales: the queen wishes for a magical bird that can rejuvenate people with its song. The youngest prince also acquires the winged horse Griffon and a wife for himself, the princess Fairest of the Fair.[72]

Italian author Luigi Capuana used the motif of the golden-coloured bird stealing the apples in his literary fiaba Le arance d'oro ("The Golden Apples"),[73] where a goldfinch is sent to steal the oranges in the King's orchard.[74][75]

Professor Jack Zipes states that the tale type inspired Russian poet Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov to write his fairy tale poem The Little Humpacked Horse. The tale begins akin to ATU 530, "The Princess on the Glass Mountain", (hero finds or captures wild horse(s) with magical powers) and continues as ATU 550: the envious Tsar asks the peasant Ivan to bring him the firebird and the beatiful Tsar-Maid.[76]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "SurLaLune Fairy Tales: Tales Similar To Firebird". surlalunefairytales.com.
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  4. ^ Grimm, Jacob & Grimm, Wilhelm; Taylor, Edgar; Cruikshank, George (illustrator). Grimm's Goblins: Grimm's Household Stories. London: R. Meek & Co.. 1877. p. 289.
  5. ^ Grimm, Jacob, Wilhelm Grimm, JACK ZIPES, and ANDREA DEZSÖ. "THE SIMPLETON." In The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition, 207-15. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014. Accessed August 13, 2020. doi:10.2307/j.ctt6wq18v.71.
  6. ^ "Der Goldvogel". In: Löwis of Menar, August von. Finnische und estnische Volksmärchen. Jena: Eugen Diederichs. 1922. pp. 12-16.
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  8. ^ "The Golden Bird and the Good Hare". In: Groome, Francis Hindes. Gypsy folk-tales. London: Hurst and Blackett. 1899. pp. 182-187.
  9. ^ Bolte, Johannes; Polívka, Jiri. Anmerkungen zu den Kinder- u. hausmärchen der brüder Grimm. Erster Band (NR. 1-60). Germany, Leipzig: Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. 1913. pp. 503-515.
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  73. ^ Underhill, Zoe Dana. The Dwarfs' Tailor, And Other Fairy Tales. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers. 1896. pp. 164-176.
  74. ^ Capuana, Luigi. C'era una volta...: Fiabe. Milano: Fratelli Treves, Editori. 1885. pp. 57-73.
  75. ^ Capuana, Luigi. Once upon a time fairy tales. New York: Cassell Publishing Company. 1893. pp. 16-28. [8]
  76. ^ Zipes, Jack (2019). "Speaking the Truth with Folk and Fairy Tales: The Power of the Powerless". The Journal of American Folklore. 132 (525): 243–259. doi:10.5406/jamerfolk.132.525.0243. JSTOR 10.5406/jamerfolk.132.525.0243.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bolte, Johannes; Polívka, Jiri. Anmerkungen zu den Kinder- u. hausmärchen der brüder Grimm. Erster Band (NR. 1-60). Germany, Leipzig: Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung. 1913. pp. 503-515.
  • Cosquin, Emmanuel. Contes populaires de Lorraine comparés avec les contes des autres provinces de France et des pays étrangers, et précedés d'un essai sur l'origine et la propagation des contes populaires européens. Tome I. Paris: Vieweg. 1887. pp. 212-222.
  • Hyltén-Cavallius, Gunnar Olof och Stephens, George. Svenska Folk-Sagor och Äfventyr. Förste Delen. Stockholm: pa A. Bohlins Förlag. 1844. pp. 151-152 and 164-168.
  • Hyltén-Cavallius, Gunnar Olof och Stephens, George. Svenska Folk-Sagor och Äfventyr. Förste Delen. Stockholm: pa A. Bohlins Förlag. 1849. pp. 488-489.
  • Schott, Arthur and Schott, Albert. Walachische Maehrchen. Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta. 1845. pp. 368-370.

Further reading[edit]

  • Blecourt, Willem. (2008). 'The Golden Bird', 'The Water of Life' and the Walewein. Tijdschrift Voor Nederlandse Taal-en Letterkunde. 124. 259-277.
  • De Blécourt, Willem. "A Quest for Rejuvenation." In: Tales of Magic, Tales in Print: On the Genealogy of Fairy Tales and the Brothers Grimm. pp. 51-79. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv6p4w6.7.

External links[edit]