Illustration from Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Little Brother and Little Sister and Other Tales By the Brothers Grimm. Arthur Rackham, illustrator. London: Constable & Company Ltd, 1917.

“Maid Maleen” by the Brothers Grimm

I have to say that I like Maid Maleen. Maybe I’m just in a good mood today, forgiving of the Grimm’s typical love of the beautiful, sweet, obedient young woman, or maybe Maid Maleen is not solely passive. Her story’s romantic and touching, but she has to rescue herself in order to get to her happy ending.

Maid Maleen is the daughter of a King and of course very beautiful. A prince from another land asked for her hand in marriage, but her father refuses, the story doesn’t tell us why. Maid Maleen and the prince love each other dearly, and Maleen tells her father that she will marry no one else. Her father, furious, locks her and her waiting-woman up in a tower (reminds you of Rapunzel’s tower, doesn’t it?) for seven years, cutting them off from the rest of the world. When the food and drink dwindles and the two young women realize that the seven years is up and no one is coming to get them out, she and her maid use a bread knife to break through the mortar and rescues themselves.

When Maleen and her maid come out, they find their kingdom has been destroyed and no one is left. In reality, being locked away probably saved their lives. The two wonder throughout the land, but no one will help them. Finally they reach a city and the cook allows them to stay and work int he kitchen.

Surprise, surprise, this city is in the kingdom ruled the Maleen’s princes father. The prince is now engaged to another, an ugly, wicked woman. On the day of the wedding, this woman is ashamed of her ugliness and afraid, so she threaten Maleen until Maleen takes her place in the wedding.

You can read the story several places on-line, including here. In the end, after several question are asked of the ugly bride when she goes to the groom’s room that night, the prince calls for Maleen and realizes what has happened.

She answered, “I am Maid Maleen, who for thy sake was imprisoned seven years in the darkness, who suffered hunger and thirst, and has lived so long in want and poverty. To-day, however, the sun is shining on me once more. I was married to thee in the church, and I am thy lawful wife.” Then they kissed each other, and were happy all the days of their lives.

And of course, the Grimm ending, which is short and sweet in this one.

The false bride was rewarded for what she had done by having her head cut off.

So, why do I like Maid Maleen? She stood up to her father, who obviously did not have her best interests at heart. She escaped from the tower on her own without having to wait for a knight in shining armor to rescue her. Granted she did wait the whole seven years, but the Grimms do like obedient girls remember. She had to survive a long journey throughout the land, when no one would take pity on her and she had to eat whatever she could find. She ends up working in a kitchen, not even close to the life a princess would expect. She’s a tough lady. She didn’t want to take the bride’s place, only doing so when her life was threatened. She never divulges to the prince what happened, helping the “false bride” answer his questions until he finally figures out that Maleen was truly the one he married. She doesn’t compromise and still gets the prince she loves and the happily ever after.

Challenge: Fairy tales

Friday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. I would love it if you joined me. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, share with us. If you have a link, please include it in your comment.


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