The Princess Who Never Smiled

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The Princess Who Never Smiled by Viktor Vasnetsov

The Princess Who Never Smiled or The Unsmiling Tsarevna is a Russian fairy tale collected by Alexander Afanasyev in Narodnye russkie skazki.


There was once a princess who never smiled or laughed. Her father promised that whoever made her smile could marry her, and many tried, but none succeeded.

Across the town, an honest worker worked hard for his master. At the end of the year, the master put a sack of money before him and told him to take as much as he wanted. To avoid sinning by taking too much, he took only one coin, and when he went to drink from a well, he dropped the coin and lost it. The next year, the same thing happened to him. The third year, the worker took the same amount of coin as before, but when he drank from the well, he did not lose his coin, and the other two coins floated up to him. He decided to see the world. A mouse asked him for alms; he gave him a coin. Then he did the same for a beetle and a catfish.

He came to the castle and saw princess Euna looking at him. This astounded him, and he fell in the mud. The mouse, the beetle, and the catfish came to his aid, and at their antics, the princess laughed. She pointed him out as the man, and when he was brought into the castle, he had been turned into a handsome man. The honest worker, now a handsome man, married princess Euna.


Making the princess laugh, or smile, is a common fairy tale motif of various uses. The culmination of Golden Goose and The Magic Swan, where the goose or swan causes other characters to stick to each other, is that the sight causes a princess to laugh for the first time, resulting, as in this story, in her marriage. Peruonto and the frame story of Giambattista Basile, however, combine it with a curse, caused by the angry person laughed at, to force the princess to marry someone.


A Sesame Street Book Club book entitled The Sesame Street Alphabet Storybook (which interspersed different objects starting with subsequent letters into infamous stories as told by Sesame Street characters) included a quick telling of "The Princess who Never Laughed" using a xylophone and yo-yo's (X and Y) as props used by two people trying to make the princess laugh to no avail. It comes to end when Cookie Monster, who was lurking behind them, ate both items, which the princess did think was funny.

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