The Golden Crab

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The Golden Crab is a Greek fairy tale collected as "Prinz Krebs" by Bernhard Schmidt in his Griechische Märchen, Sagen and Volkslieder. Andrew Lang included it in The Yellow Fairy Book.[1]

Georgios A. Megas collected a variant, The Crab, in Folktales of Greece.[2]

It is Aarne-Thompson type 425D, Vanished Husband learned of by keeping inn.[3]


Schmidt's variant[edit]

One day a fisherman, who had a wife and three children, caught a golden crab with the rest of his fish. He took it home, and the crab told his wife, who was cleaning the other fish, to let down her skirt, her feet were showing. That evening, the crab asked to be given dinner, and when they did, they found his plate was filled with gold. This happened every night.

One day, the crab told the fisherman's wife to tell the king that he wanted to marry his younger daughter. The king, guessing he was an enchanted prince, demanded that he build a wall in front of the castle, higher than the highest tower, and blooming with flowers, and then a garden with three fountains that played gold, diamonds, and brilliants. When this was done, the king agreed.

The crab sent the fisherman to fetch rich garments for himself and his bride, and had himself carried to the castle on a golden cushion. After the wedding, he told his bride that he was an enchanted prince, a crab by day and a man by night, though he could change himself into an eagle whenever he liked. They spent their nights together, and soon the princess had a son.

The king held another tournament, and if any of the knights pleased her, she would marry him instead of the crab. The crab sent the princess to give orders for his golden armor and steed, and his silver apple, to be brought to him. He warned her that he would throw her the silver apple, but she must not say he is the crab. When she was not pleased with any of the princes, the king held a second tournament. The crab was certain that his wife would betray him this time, but went again. When he threw her the golden apple, her mother boxed her ears, demanding to know why even that knight did not please her, and the princess confessed it was the crab. The queen ran back to their rooms, saw the crab shell, and burned it. The princess wept bitterly, but her husband did not return.

An old man went to dip some bread in water when a dog stole it from him. He chased after the dog, and found a palace. Twelve eagles flew in and became young men. They toasted the health of some family member -- a father, a mother -- and the last toasted his wife but cursed the mother who burned his shell. The old man heard the princess was ill, and that the only thing that consoled her was hearing stories. He went to the castle to tell his, and the princess went with him to the palace. When her husband gave that toast, she ran to him. He asked if she would stay with him the three months until the enchantment was done. She agreed and sent back the old man to tell her parents. They were not pleased, but when the three months were done, the prince and princess went back home and were happy.

Megas's variant[edit]

A priest and his wife lived near a king and queen. They were so fond of each other that they agreed that their children would marry. The queen gave birth to a daughter, and the priest's wife to a crab. When the crab and the princess were grown, the crab asked the king to fulfill his promise. The king asked him to remove a nearby mountain in one night. The crab did so, and the marriage was held. He took off his shell at night and became a handsome young man, but cautioned his wife to silence. The princess was pleased, but her mother was grief-stricken. On Sundays, the crab sent his wife to church ahead of him and came in human form; her mother said that the prince must have come to woo her and she lost him by marrying the crab. On the third Sunday, the queen wept so much that her daughter feared she would become ill, and the princess revealed the truth. When she went back, the crab was gone.

She had three pairs of iron shoes made and wandered the world until she had worn out two. Then she built an inn and asked all travellers for news. Two beggars came. One told how he had tried to eat some bread, but when he dipped it into a stream to soften it, the current bore it off. He had chased it to a palace, where he was forbidden to eat until the lords had eaten. Three doves flew in and turned to young men. Two toasted the health of a fair one who could not keep a secret, and ordered the windows and doors to weep; they wept, and the young men wept with them. The third toasted the fair lady who could not keep her promise for one more day, and wept with the windows and doors. When they were done, the beggar ate and left. The princess asked him to lead her there. The oven and cauldron welcomed her, and the door told her to hide behind it. When the first two men gave their toasts, the doors and windows wept, but when the third did, they laughed. He went to break them, and found his wife. She threw his wings on the fire and saved him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Andrew Lang, The Yellow Fairy Book, "The Golden Crab"
  2. ^ Georgios A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, p 42, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970
  3. ^ Georgias A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, p 226, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970