Thursday’s Tale: The Suitors of the Princess Fire-Fly

Illustration by Montagu Barstow and Baroness Orczy, 1895
Illustration by Montagu Barstow and Baroness Orczy, 1895

Today, I thought we’d look at another tale Baroness Orczy retold in Old Hungarian Fairy Tales, “The Suitors of the Princess Fire-Fly.”

A long time ago, there lived a King Fire-fly who lived in a lovely lotus palace. He had a lovely daughter he kept safe inside the palace, but she became lovelier and lovelier and her fame spread throughout the land. All the moths, beetles and flies of neighboring kingdoms pulled out their finery in order to woo her, but she stated she would only marry the one who would perform a perilous task for her, bring back a spark of fire.

Many fairy flies, and beetles, and moths, and all types of insects fly off on the quest. The problem is that bugs and fire don’t get along well. Many get burned, some find phosphorescent mosses but they go out when daylight comes. The “Red Admiral” finds a ring of fire, a diamond, but a boy picks it up before he can figure out how to carry it and gives it to a woman, so he commits suicide on a rose thorn.

“And thus it was with one and all—some were frightened, and never attempted the task, others were badly singed, some died, none succeeded, and even to this day, in far-off lands, where the lotus grows, we always say when we see a crowd of insects fluttering round a flame: ‘Ah! Princess Fire-fly has many suitors to-night!'”

It’s a sad story. So many brave, handsome suitors died attempting to fulfill a vain, selfish girl’s wish. But I can see all the bugs drawn to the lights outside on summer evenings, trying to figure out how to bring that spark back to the princess. Some fairy tale princesses just don’t deserve a happily ever after.

You can read the whole story at The Baldwin Project.

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

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