Greetings, Champions! (Don’t worry, no spoilers here, we’re just talking about the source material today.)
The original story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses is tough to pin down, mostly because there’s so many variants. There’s the most well known version–the Brothers Grimm version which was published in 1812–however, there are also French, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, Portuguese, Slovakian, Scottish, and Icelandic versions as well. Each story is a little different, but they typically share one of two story structures, which are best showcased in the German version and the French version.
The German version–which is perhaps the more traditional version–follows the adventure of a soldier.
The king of his country has twelve beautiful daughters who, despite sleeping in a locked room, wear their dancing shoes to pieces every night. The king promises that if a man is able to uncover the mystery of the princesses and their worn shoes within three days and three nights, he will be given the kingdom and he will be allowed the marry the princess of his choice. (Seems like a pretty big reward for a mystery that pertains to used shoes...) However, anyone who tries yet fails to uncover the secret within that three day time frame will be put to death. (There’s no reason given for this death threat. I bet this king is a relative of the king from Rumpelstiltskin!)
This unpromising cycle has continued on for some time, until our hero–the retired soldier–asks for a chance. The king gives his permission, and right before it’s time for the soldier to spend his first night with the princesses, he meets an old woman who gives him an invisibility cloak and tells him not to eat or drink anything the princesses give him and to pretend to sleep.
The soldier follows that advice, and as a result is able to sneak out after the princesses when they leave their room through a trap door. (The soldier follows so closely behind them that he treds on the dress of the youngest princess–who cries out in surprise.) The princesses lead the way through three groves of trees (One grove is made of silver trees, one of gold, and the last of diamonds.) and the soldier takes a twig from each tree.
They then come to a beautiful lake where twelve boats and twelve princes wait to ferry the princesses across. The soldier hops on the boat of the youngest princess, who lectures her prince for being slower than anyone else due to the extra (and unknown) weight the soldier provides. (I might add that while it’s noted the princesses are beautiful, they certainly don’t get personality points.)
Across the water is a castle, where the princesses dance the night away before hurrying back to their home.
The soldier follows the princesses a second and third time, but on the third night he manages to steal a golden cup. The next day he presents the cup and the tree branches to the king as he explains what the princesses do every night. Faced with this absolute proof, the princesses confess that he is correct. The soldier then picks the oldest princess as his bride, and that’s it.
A few things about this story really gets me, and it’s why I was so determined NOT to write a story about the princesses themselves. 1) The princesses are brats. They aren’t under any kind of enchantment, spell, curse, NOTHING. They willingly go dancing every night and refuse to tell their father what they’re doing for reasons never explained. 2) The princesses have been drugging those who tried to uncover their mystery–which is bad enough, but by doing so they willingly participated in their father’s madness and sent men to death because they wanted to dance. Nice girls, these princesses are NOT! 3) If the king is related to the blood thirsty king of Rumpelstiltskin–who threatened a girl with death or marriage–then the soldier is certainly related to the miller’s daughter of Rumpelstiltskin. Why on earth would he want to marry a girl who is at worst capable of murder and at best a compulsive liar??
The second most popular variant of the Twelve Dancing Princess story is fairly similar, but instead of a soldier the hero is a gardener’s boy. (As I mentioned at the beginning, the most well known of this particular strain of the 12 dancing princesses is the French version) This story is actually a bit more detailed than the German version, so we’ll examine it in another post.
However, if you want to read some of the many variants I mentioned at the start of this post, I highly recommend Twelve Dancing Princesses Tales From Around the World, by Heidi Anne Heiner. (The ebook is in Kindle Unlimited!)
Thanks for reading, Champions. I hope you enjoy Quinn and her adventure in The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Have a lovely day!
I really enjoyed this version of 12 dancing princesses. Quinn was a really great character and I liked how calm and competent she was. Loved the snarky relationship between her and Emerys.
I also now like Angelique. It feels a bit weird to be typing that because I’ve seen that other people commenting on your blog love her and are eagerly anticipating her story and I know that she is meant to be the important thread tying all your stories together but I’ve never really connected with her character or felt anything but neutral toward her before this book.
But when she shows up at the elven border all bedraggled and angry at Emerys. In that scene she suddenly seemed to have a lot more depth to her character and I really like the friendship she seems to be building with Quinn. The characters of previous books may be friendly with Angelique but they tend to view her as an enchantress first, one who is incredibly beautiful and good, whereas Quinn sees her as a person who happens to have magic.
I loved your version of 12 Dancing Princesses!! Your version and Marie Haskell’s version are my top favorites for the fairy tale besides watching the Barbie version which is also very good. I loved learning more about Angelique’s inner core magic and the knowledge of what was happening with Evariste and Odile’s mom Suzu in the beginning. I can’t wait for Snow White and Angelique’s stories!!! And if according to the story line that Angelique is like the Snow Queen, I can’t wait to see who her Farrin is.
Between Kitty’s retelling and Melanie Collier’s retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses – I can’t pick a favorite. Love them both. I especially love Quinn and Emerys relationship and his interaction with Alastryn and Angelique.
Now looking forward to Angelique’s story especially where it will lead…maybe a confrontation between Suzu and her daughter Odile
Snow White will set us up very nicely for Angelique’s story–I hope you enjoy it! 😀 I have some fun plans–and it will be great to finally blow everything wide open!
I agree about Melanie Collier. Her writing is fantastic too. And she’s doing an awesome retelling of fairy tales that I would highly recommend.
Kenzie R. says
Has anyone read Jessica Day George’s version? I love that book, as well as the books that come after, so much!!! Like Kitty’s, the hero is both a gardener and soldier.
Yes, I loved that retelling! I didn’t like the later books in the series as much, but in their defense, the first one sets the bar pretty high. xD Just please don’t make me pick a favorite between George’s retelling and Kitty’s retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses – I adore both! <3
I’m going to have a blog post soon about other retellings, but you guys will LOVE Marrill Haskell (I think I have that wrong, but I’ll get it right in the blog post) retelling! It’s called “The Princess Curse” I think. It’s by far the best version I’ve read!
Ahh, yes, I’ve read that one, too!
Edel E.M. says
I also admit I like the Barbie 12 Dancing Princesses movie! There is AMAZING choreography in it, and my son was intrigued by the movement and my daughter would actively try ballet while watching it! The story is decent too, for a kids’ movie.
After watching the Barbie version, I looked up the Grimm version and was pretty taken aback. I knew Grimm was dark, but I agree about the uncaring/selfish personalities of the actual princesses and the ruthlessness of king to support death sentences for failed investigators/suitors.
I think it is important to say the men who were drugged by the princesses were also executed. The princesses definitely knew what was going on and let these men die. Whoever were the dominant girls definitely convinced the group to accept the price to keep dancing.
I think you wrote the princesses’ relationships very well. That could be a whole other sinister story of manipulation and sibling relationships gone bad.
This was a really great story! It felt new and fresh as I was reading it. Quinn really stood out with her personality, effectiveness as a soldier, and her vulnerability with her crush. Emerys, the royal who does not (nor wants to) act like a royal snotty elf, was fun too. Good for him! Very interesting couple.
Looking forward to Snow White and then Angelique’s trilogy! Yay!
😀 I’m so happy you liked it! And yes, I heartily agree with your distaste for the princesses in letting their suitors/investigators die. I actually had to talk myself off a cliff months ago when I was first planning the story and wanted to make them ALL bad, but I realized that wasn’t very realistic or likely.
I am glad you liked Quinn and Emerys! Emerys in particular was fun to design, as I basically tried to make him the opposite of what everyone would expect: mouthy, jaded, and loud. 😉
Confession: I rather adore the older Barbie movies, especially the 12 Dancing Princesses. Double Confession: I don’t have any kids. I babysat a pair of girls for several years and watched all of the Barbie movies then. I now own most of them. Yes, I rewatch them. They are my guilty pleasure when I need a de-stress night.
If you get a chance, you should watch it. The older Barbie movies actually have quite a bit of quirky humor, cute, sweet romance, and something of a plot. The newer ones…stay away from those at all costs!
I think I’ll have to take a peek at them on you recommendation alone! (I’ve actually seen a few really funny memes from the older barbie movies recently, which is what reminded me this movie existed!) 😉 Thanks for the recommendation!