“The Green Knight”

Today I’m looking at a fairy tale from Denmark, and while it has several similarities with Cinderella, I think I actually prefer “The Green Knight.”

Like Cinderella, the princess’s mother dies and a mean step-mom and step-sister enter the household. This though, it is through her pleading that the King re-marries, even though he knows it is not the best course of action, he cannot go against his daughters wishes. He loves her and wants to make her happy, which holds true throughout the story. Yay for the dad for once. Fairy tales aren’t usually very father-friendly.

The King moves the princess to the summer castle, where she can be happier not having to live with the step-mom and sister. the day comes when the King has to go to a gathering of royalty and his daughter asks him to take a message to the Green Knight for her, that she’s waiting for him and only he can free her from her suffering.

While there is no Green Knight at the meeting, the King does eventually find him after many days of travel. He passes on the princess’ message.

Then the Green Knight said to the king, “Your daughter was sad, and was certainly not thinking of me when she gave you her message, for she can never have heard of me; she was probably thinking of the churchyard with its many green mounds, where alone she hoped to find rest. But perhaps I can give her something to alleviate her sorrow. Take this little book, and tell the princess when she is sad and heavy-hearted to open her east window and to read in the book; it will gladden her heart.”

The words in the book magically bring the Prince to the young woman’s room, but he leaves when she closes the pages. Eventually, like in all good fair-tales they fall in love, have to work through adversity, this time a poisoning, and them get the happily ever after ending. You’ll need to read the story for all the details.

There are several reasons I prefer this to the standard Cinderella tale. First and foremost is that the father is actually a caring, concerned, decent parent, doing the best he can for his daughter. He honestly loves her and it shows.

Second I appreciate that while the Green Knight is perfect, handsome, kind and intelligent, he still needs the princess’s help. She, and only she, can save him from the poison. And, while the princess is gentle and lovely, she makes the long trek to the knight’s castle, works hard in the kitchen until she saves the Knight. Only upon his recovery does he recognize her.

Soon after that their wedding was celebrated in the green castle; and there they are probably still living together and ruling over all the inhabitants of the green forests.

The story is full of action, magic, danger, but the two main characters are not passive, things don’t just happen to them, they push fate in the direction they want. They are willing to have patience and to persevere. I had never heard this fairy tale before and am glad I ran across it.

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there to see what she has to say about another Danish tale, “The Twin Brothers,”and to share your own thoughts. Next week, we’ll be looking at a tale from Tibet.

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