Friday, September 27, 2013

Twelve Dancing Princesses

Today I tell the story The Twelve Dancing Princesses otherwise known as The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces or The Invisible Shepherd Boy. Between those three titles you can pretty much guess what will happen but I’m going to recount it for you anyway (with pictures of course).

Once upon a time someplace European and pseudo-medieval there was a young man, a star gazer, shepherd, wounded soldier or other such profession unsuitable to snobby princesses. 

By H. J. Ford 1890 
By Adrienne Adam, 1966
In some versions of the tale he was visited by a golden woman in a dream and told to go to a castle, in others he just happened upon it but in either case he came to a castle.

By A. H. Watson, 1927

By Errol Le Cain, 1981

There he heard tales of twelve princesses who disappeared every night and in the morning their shoes were completely worn out. The King was at his wits end. He had offered any prince who could discover the princesses secret one of their hands in marriage. All had failed and the king either imprisoned them or didn’t mess about and killed them.

By Kay Nielsen 1913

This is where the stories most divide. Sometimes the young man becomes a castle gardener and grows two laurel trees one that produces a flower which, when put in his button hole, renders him invisible. 

By Margaret Evans Price, 1921.

Other times an old woman in tells him of the princesses, warns him not to drink their sleeping draft and gives him an invisibility cloak. He then offers his services to the King.

By Errol Le Cain, 1981

Now our invisible hero follows the princesses. 

By A. H. Watson, 1927

By Errol Le Cain, 1981
He tails them through a trap door  and down a flight of stairs. At one point he accidentally steps on the youngest princesses dress but her sisters tell her she just got it caught.

By Su Blackwell

By Kay Nielsen 1913

He then follows them through three groves or forests, one silver, one gold, and one diamond. 

By Arthur Rackham, 1909

By Anne Anderson 1934

They come to a lake where twelve princes in twelve boats are awaiting them. The young man gets in the boat with the youngest daughter whom, naturally, he fancies. 

By Errol Le Cain, 1981
By Sheilah Beckett

The Prince must assume at this point that the princess is putting on weight while she equally assumes the prince has become quite chubby as their boat moves much slower through the water.

By Errol Le Cain, 1981
They come to a great ball. 

By Kay Nielsen 1913

From the The Children’s Encyclopedia, Edited by Arthur Mee and Holland Thompson

By Elenore Abbot, 1920

There is a crazy amount of dancing and the poor lonely young man wishes he could dance too (think Perks of Being a Wallflower only nobody does notice him).

By Errol Le Cain, 1981
By Hellen Stratton, 1903

Depending on how many times he follows them on various trips he breaks off a branch from each of the different trees. He is heard by some of the princesses but dismissed as something else.

In some versions he now presents his findings to the king and wins the hand of the youngest princess (he should totally pick the eldest so he gets the kingdom, but I suppose his humble beginnings don’t allow him to reach that far). In a much more romantic version of the tale the princesses discover he knows about their trips and decide to curse him like they have the other princes to only love dancing and nothing else. 

By Kay Nielsen 1913

He overhears this plot and decides to go along willingly because he would rather be with the youngest princess in this way than not at all. At the last second she stops them yelling, “I would rather marry a gardener!” 

By Sheilah Beckett

And they all live happily ever after, except the eleven other princesses and original twelve princes.

The End

Nine variations on this tale can be found at D. L. Ashliman's page on The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.

And one for good luck, the book that introduced to these twelve rebellious ladies...
Illustrated by Jane Ray

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