The Sprig of Rosemary
It is Aarne-Thompson type 425A, the search for the lost husband.
The fairy tale is about a man who makes his only daughter work very hard. One day after work, he sends her to collect firewood and so she does. While searching for the wood, she picks herself a sprig of rosemary as well. Then a handsome young man appears and asks why she has come to steal his firewood. She replies that her father sent her. The young man leads her to a castle and tells her that he is a great lord and wants to marry her. She agrees so they marry.
While living there, she meets an old woman who looks after the castle and the woman gives her the keys but warns her that if she uses one, the castle will fall to pieces. After a time, curiosity overcomes her and she opens a door and finds a snakeskin. Her husband, a magician, uses it to change shape. Because she used the keys, the castle then falls to pieces. The girl cries, breaking off a sprig of rosemary and goes to search for him.
She finds a house of straw where the people living there, take her in service. However, she grows sadder by the day. When her mistress asks why, the daughter tells her story, and her mistress sends her to the Sun, the Moon, and the Wind, to ask for help. The Sun can not help her, but gives her a nut and sends her on to the Moon; the Moon can not help her but gives her an almond and sends her on to the Wind; the Wind does not know where her husband is but says he will look. He learns her husband was hidden in the palace of the king and is to marry the king's daughter the next day.
The daughter implores him to put it off if he can, and after giving her a walnut, the Wind blows on the tailors sewing for the wedding and destroys their work. The daughter arrives and cracks the nut, finding a fine mantle. She sells it to the princess for a great sum of gold. The almond holds petticoats, which she also sells. The walnut holds a gown, and for this she demands to see the bridegroom. The princess finally agrees, and when she goes in, she touches him with the rosemary which brings his memory back, and they go back to her home.
The unwitting theft is a common motif, but in fairy tales, the usual offender is the father, as in The Singing, Springing Lark or Beauty and the Beast; the motif is found in other folktales, such as the ballads Tam Lin and Hind Etin.
Finding the husband can change shape is a common thread in stories of this type, but the discovery that the husband can become a beast is rare; usually, as in East of the Sun and West of the Moon, The Black Bull of Norroway, The Brown Bear of Norway, The Enchanted Snake, and The Enchanted Pig, the bride finds her animal bridegroom is also a man. Furthermore, the usual disaster stems not merely from the discovery but the attempt to break the spell on him—although it is not unique for the violation of the taboo to bring disaster, as in The Tale of the Hoodie.
In most variants, all the magical treasures are used to bribe the heroine's way to the hero, but the false heroine manages to trick the hero to nullify it, instead of this tale's technique where she actually sells the first two things.
- Bridget Hadaway (retold) (1974). Fairy Tales. Octopus Books. pp. 170–171.