Illustration by Warwick Goble from The Fairy Book by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik., 1913.
Illustration by Warwick Goble from The Fairy Book by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, 1913.

Today’s story, “The Petrified Mansion,” is from India, retold by Francis Bradley-Birt in Bengal Fairy Tales, 1920. It’s a similar tale to the more familiar “Sleeping Beauty.”

A prince sets out to see the world. He carries with him no valuables and has no servants in his company, it’s just him and his sword. After a time, he comes to a grand mansion, which he enters (without permission, apparently). He is surprised to find all the people and animals in all the rooms are petrified, statues. He was frightened and on the verge of leaving, when he sees a beautiful young woman lying on a golden bed. To all appearances, she is dead. The prince was “enamored” by her beauty and sat staring at her. One day he notices a stick of gold near her pillow. He picked it up and was looking at it when it touched the young woman’s forehead and she instantly came awake as did the rest of the household. Everyone in the mansions began doing their jobs.

The prince and princess are, of course, surprised, but a servant enters the room, sees the man sitting beside the princess’ bed and reports back to the king. The King comes in and asks the prince who he is. After the prince tells him , the king thanks him for awakening them. they had been petrified by the touch of a silver stick and only the touch of the gold stick could release them. No mention of who did it. Or why whoever it was left the gold stick by the princess. If I were going to petrify everyone in a palace, I don’t think I’d leave the remedy that close. Of course, the princess and prince get married and it is all quite joyous.

But wait – what about the poor prince’s parents, who haven’t seen or heard from him for how long? They’re mourning the loss of their son. The queen is in bed, ill, and the king has gone blind from weeping. The whole kingdom is immersed in sadness. Happily, the eventually shows up with his new bride, uses the gold stick to heal mom and dad, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Can you imagine how creepy it would be walking into a house where everyone is statues? I don’t think I would end up sitting by a “dead” girl’s bed for very long in that environment. I did like that it took into consideration the prince’s parents. Usually we don’t get that point of view, the good parents whose child left to find his fortune.

You can read the book on-line here.

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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