Fair, brown and trembling

Fair, Brown & Trembling retold by Jude Daly is a traditional Irish fairytale, similar to Cinderella. It’s a wonderful change-up from the usual fairy tales and would be a nice read-aloud around St. Patrick’s Day.

Three sisters, Fair, Brown, and Trembling, and their father live in a castle high in the hills of Ireland. Terrible names for daughters, don’t you think? Their mother had died. Since Trembling was the most beautiful, her older sisters made her stay at home instead of going to church on Sundays, for fear that she would marry before them. One sunday morning, the henwife told Trembling she should go to church; when she objected that she had no suitable dress, the henwife put on her”cloak of darkness” and gae her a lily-white gown and shamrock-green shoes. Outside a horse was waiting for Trembling. The henwife told Trembling not to go inside the church door and to return home as fast as she can immediately after the service. That “cloak of darkness” is interesting. Is it a trademark of Irish stories? Does she become a witch when she puts it on? Is it dark as in evil, which might explain why Trembling can’t enter the church door. Trembling stood just outside the door through the mass, and although all the men admired her and wondered who she was, she rode home quickly and got away before any man came near her. After two more Sundays, three total, the prince of Emania, who had stayed outside during the service, reached out as she passed and grabbed one of her shoes when she passed him.

The prince announced that he would marry the lady whose foot fit the slipped, but all the other princes wanted to marry the beautiful women too. They agreed they would fight for her once they found her. They searched all over, and when they came to the sisters’ castle. The sister had locked Trembling into a cupboard, but she called out and the prince insisted on seeing her too. The shoe fit and the prince said at once that she was the woman.

The sons of three foreign kings fought him for her, but the king’s son defeated them all. So the Prince and Trembling got married. They were happy ever after and had fourteen children.

As for Fair and Brown, they were put to sea with provisions and never seen again.

I like this variation of the story, with the gathering place of the church rather than a ball. And the illustrations in this particular version are lovely, brightly colored, and while we don’t see the fighting, we are shown one woman who attempted to fit into the shoe by cutting off her toe. Let’s be honest, kids tend to like a little harmless gore, at least mine always did.

You can purchase a used copy of Fair, Brown and Trembling on Amazon or see if your library has it.

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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