A big thank you to all the wonderful and amazing champions who left reviews for Twelve Dancing Princesses! The short, Of Noble Heart, is now available! (Click here for the PDF File. I hope you like it!) I really hope you enjoy the short story. (But ohmygoodness I can’t wait for you to read the next one, it’s my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE!!) Now let’s jump in to today’s topic.
Welcome back for the second round of the Twelve Dancing Princesses origins! It’s a bit unusual that I delve into two different versions of the story, but, as you will see by the end of the post, in my retelling I actually stitched these two versions together…and I’m too big of a geek to let that slide without pointing out how I did it. 😉 So here we go!
In the French version, not only do the princesses have very little to recommend them besides beauty, but the hero–a boy who works under the palace gardener–is an absolute beast. The hero was originally a peasant boy who left his village because he thought the girls there were ugly. I’m not making this up! He decides he wants to marry a princess because they are said to be prettier, and since he’s handsome he has decided he is far above the likes of the girls in his village. (So…I guess he’s Gaston if Belle wasn’t around?)
Our shallow hero dreams of an enchantress who tells him to go to the castle and there he can marry a beautiful princess. So our hero-who-deserves-a-smack-upside-the-head sets out and snags the career of gardener’s boy. (Personally I think pig keeper would suit him better…)
As it just so happens the duke (don’t ask why their father is a duke and they are princesses, there is no explanation given for that gem.) who owns the castle has 12 beautiful daughters who–despite being triple locked in their room–wear out their shoes every night and commonly sleep until the afternoon. The duke offers a reward to anyone who can find out what they are doing–because of course the girls lie and insist they are sleeping. Strangely, whenever someone is locked in the princesses’ chambers to investigate their activities, the following morning when the doors are unlocked they are nowhere to be found. (The duke, apparently, is not as crazy as the king from the German tale as he offers no time limit and, more importantly, no death threat if you can’t uncover the mystery. Not like it matters, though, as in this version no one is seen again after their first try.)
One of our stuck-up gardener’s boy’s tasks is to give the princesses a bouquet every morning–which is how he falls in love with the youngest princess who is naturally also the prettiest. The enchantress returns to our dolt-of-a-hero in his dreams and gives him gardening advice on how to grow two laurels which will then bud flowers that will make him invisible.
The gardener’s boy does this, and when his laurels are fully grown he sneaks into the princesses’ rooms while wearing the flower of invisibility and hides under their beds. The sisters search the rooms, but eventually get dressed in their prettiest gowns and go through a trap door.
As in the German version, our shallow hero is following so closely behind them he steps on the gown of the youngest princess. Similarly, they walk through the tree groves of the silver, gold, and diamond tress, and come to a lake where the twelve boats and princes are waiting for them.
Just as the soldier did, the gardener’s boy hops on the boat of the youngest princess–who also lectures her prince for rowing so slowly.
At the other side of the lake is a splendid castle that has lots of food, drink, and other luxuries. The princes (who number at least 50 and were actually all the men who tried to uncover the princesses’ secret) dance the night away with the princesses because the girls had previously given them a philtre that froze their hearts and filled them with the desire to dance. (Which I suppose makes these girls slightly better than the princesses in the German version. Now they are only kidnappers instead of murderers.)
As a side note, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the castle. There are servants, and yes they have the princes, but no one explains who owns the castle or why it exists. A couple of variants credit the fairies, but that’s usually as far as it goes. Moving on!
The princesses dance the night away and then hurry home shortly before dawn. On the way back the gardener’s boy snaps off a twig of the silver trees and then puts it in the bouquet meant for the youngest princess later that morning. The events repeat–though this time the shallow hero snags a gold twig and places it in the youngest princesses’ bouquet–and when he follows them a third time he snatches up a diamond twig. The youngest princess by now knows he has been following them, and even though the gardener’s boy promises not to tell anyone–including her father–she tattles to her older sisters who make fun of her for the gardener boy’s obvious infatuation with her.
The eldest sister states they should throw him in prison and have him killed, which upsets the youngest. (I have no idea what she thought would happen, I mean really, they are already confirmed kidnappers!) Frightened, the youngest princess threatens to tell their father if they harm the gardener’s boy, so they decide to take him with them to the castle instead. Throughout the night the youngest princess insults the gardener’s boy, who responds calmly that she need not fear that she will become a gardener’s wife. After a night of dancing and food, the princesses try to feed him the philtre that will freeze his heart and force him to join the other princes they have captured/kidnapped.
The gardener’s boy knows what the drink is, but is willing to drink it because he loves the youngest daughter even though she’s been nothing but an absolute jerk to him. Surprisingly, the youngest princess tells him not to drink it and that she would rather be a gardener’s wife after all. The gardener’s boy flings the philtre aside, which breaks the curse over the princes. (Because reasons??) The remaining eleven princesses each choose a prince to marry, then flee back home in the boats just before the castle crumbles. (Because nothing makes for good romance like marrying your captor and fleeing your crumbling prison together!)
The gardener’s boy and the youngest princess explain to the duke everything that happened, then they are married and the gardener’s boy is made a prince. (But not before the princess burns down his magical laurels. Because it wasn’t enough she nearly got him cursed for all eternity, nooooo!)
So by now you probably see exactly how I combined the stories. Quinn is the wiser/less shallow soldier from the German version, and Roy–her Band Gallant companion–is the gardener’s boy who is a bit obsessed with princesses. In the next post we’ll go into more detail, and I’ll discuss why I did what I did/how it fits into the Timeless Fairy Tales series. In the meantime, enjoy the short! (I hope you like this glimpse of Evariste!)