King Thrushbeard by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is fairy tale number 52.
We will be discussing
· Major archetypes that we find in our story
o Cultural context
o Historical context
· Perform the story
Short Story Summary:
Cultural and historical context of the story:
*Contrary to this popular belief, the Grimms did not travel around Germany and gather tales from peasants. Rather, they invited storytellers to their home, listened to them recite the tales orally several times, and then wrote them down. The storytellers were also not peasants; most were educated young women belonging to the middle class or nobility. In some of his earliest manuscripts, Wilhelm made notes about who he heard the tales from.
· Including King Thrushbeard
Some main archetypes from the story:
· The beautiful princess
o Illusion of power to choose her spouse
· The demanding old king
o All the power in arranging his daughter’s hand in marriage
o Plays a large part in the beginning but proves to be a smaller character
o Another thing is that the story explicitly mentions he’s old- thought that was interesting
· King thrushbeard/ the lowly beggar (guileless fool?)
o Mastermind but also the fool.
o Is made fun of by the princess and creates a plan to get her back.
o Pretends to be a beggar because he knew the king would marry his daughter off to the next beggar.
o No one bothers to ask the minstrel’s opinion about his new marriage of the princess, which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the king’s opinion of minstrels and a possible reflection not just of the king’s autocracy, but the uncertain, shifting status of musicians of the time. He was forced to marry princess by the king’s command.
Hierarchy is stated within the second paragraph, “They were all placed in a row according to their rank and standing. First came the kings, then the grand dukes, then the princes, the earls, the barons, and the aristocracy.”
Customs (Marital status in this time period)
Lessons from king to princess
Close reading/guiding questions
Whit and Michael Closed Reading
Do I like the work?
Whit: Not particularly. The story is very misogynistic but was written to make it seem like the princess was ungrateful and also deserving of everything that happened to her. In reality though Thrushbeard treated her very poorly and continuously put her down throughout the story.
Michael: it’s an interesting story about being humbled. I feel like the message is about realizing what you have and appreciating your situation because it could always be worse.
What words stand out?
Whit: Marriage and wedding. Her father married her off to a peasant with an official priest to make it official, but at the end she, unknowingly, attends her own wedding to the King’s eldest so, who turns out to be “king” Thrushbeard, even though that would make him a prince not a king.
Michael: “unworthy”. When she finally realizes the situation she realizes that she wasn’t as appreciative of her life as she should have been and says “I’m unworthy to be your wife”
What feelings does it give me?
Whit: Discontent with male/female culture. Luckily, I live in a society where men and women are becoming more and more equal, but King Thrushbeard, like most fairy tales, the woman is viewed as less than, and is tricked and manipulated as if she deserved it.
Michael: It makes me feel that I should examine the areas in my life where maybe I should be more appreciative and be more grateful about my life.
Do I identify with any of the people represented?
Whit: No, not at all. The characters were either too dominating, her father forcing her into marriage with a peasant and kicking her out of the house, the peasant/King Thrushbeard tricked and manipulated her to “teach her a lesson” (more like threw a temper tantrum because he was called ugly), and the princess who was admittedly quite rude at the beginning and then had little to know work ethic/skill because that is how she was raised.
Michael: it’s always hard to identify with people from tales that are in a setting over 200 years ago where culture was completely different. However I think the I can relate to needing to be humbled in certain life situation.
Is there anything about how it’s written that stands out?
Whit: The storyline itself is a little odd, it does not mention magic but somehow Thrushbeard, with his noticeably weird chin, was able to disguise himself as a peasant and the drunk who broke her pottery. This stands out to me, because like most fairy tales it leaves a largely unanswered question of how?
Michael: what stands out to me is the fact that thrushbeard felt the need to do this in an attempt “win over the princess” and not just go find a princess that loves his chin the way it is.
What is the work about?
Whit: It is about a prince who is upset when a princess calls him ugly so he manipulates her to think she deserved being treated poorly and in the end they officially marry as royalty.
Michael: It is a message we can all relate to. Everyone needs to be humbled at some point in their life. I think it’s the classic you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.
What else is the work about?
Whit: I think the goal of the story was to show that you should be kind to people, and if you are not you will be taught a lesson, but again in reality she was punished for wanting to choose who she had to spend the rest of her life with.
Michael: I think another underlying message is that everyone should be kind and not be arrogant or mean.
WHITNEY CLOSED READING:
In class we discussed the major archetypes, themes, and messages that were displayed throughout King Thrushbeard. In order to thoroughly guide my thought process of this specific fairytale I used a couple questions from the book “writing essays about literature” to help me break down this process. The first question is: What words standout. In order to get an accurate representation, I used a tool mentioned by our professor, Courtney Floyd, voyant-tools.org. This creates a word cloud and lets users know how many times each word was mentioned in a text. In this story the most used words are King (18), said (15), thrushbeard (10), came (9), and daughter (9). This top word being King comes as no surprise. This story includes two King’s one being the father and the other being thrushbeard, the disguised beggar. I think this clearly identifies the underlying theme of the men overpowering the women in this story. What this also pointed out to me was that the kings’ daughter is only referred to as princess in this tale once, but is primarily identified as the daughter of a King and then graduates to be another King’s wife. I think this is very telling with the way the fairytale is articulated and how it has stayed the same throughout all of the re-telling’s of King Thrushbeard.
Another question is: Do I Like the work?In order to completely decide whether I liked King Thrushbeard or not I needed to analyze what the Grimm brothers were intending for the audience to gain as a life-lesson or just as a fun story. I think this story points out a lot of outdated customs from this time. I also think that it emphasizes the idea of women needing to marry a wealthy man in order to succeed. I was shocked by the father’s quick disregard of his daughter and it made me thing, what if it was his son? The situation would be completely different. Also, I anticipated the beggar being the spiteful man towards the end making the revealing moment kind of “I thought so” instead of a shock factor. I didn’t like the ending with the princess in tears but she is “rewarded” with marriage from this man who put her though hell and back. I appreciated the interesting story aspect, but I didn’t like the underlying messages of gender roles.
Lastly, what feelings does it give me and do I identify with any of the people represented?
Throughout the story we are kind of being told that making fun of people is bad, and that those who do it should be taught a lesson. I think this is something many can relate to the King Thrushheld with on some level, including myself. Initially when someone does you wrong it is our first instinct to hope karma upon them in order to make sure they “get what they deserve” in some sense. Although, I think towards the end it becomes clear that that what Thrushbeard did was a bit extreme and made me realize it’s not our responsibility to teach others lessons. Also, it brought up feelings of unfair gender equality in these stories and how it can be twisted into a happily ever after.
Ness, M., Moher, A., Bourke, L., Alexandratos, J., Bourke, L. and Gailey, S. (2018). A Gaslighting Fairy Tale: King Thrushbeard. [online] Tor.com. Available at: https://www.tor.com/2017/03/09/a-gaslighting-fairy-tale-king-thrushbeard/ [Accessed 14 May 2018].
A Closer Look At Traditional Fairy Tales and Modern Adaptations: A Lamar University Critical Edition. (2018). Historical and Biographical Context Related to the Brothers Grimm. [online] Available at: https://fairytalescriticaleditionlu.weebly.com/historical-and-biographical-context-related-to-the-brothers-grimm.html [Accessed 16 May 2018].
Academicworks.cuny.edu. (2018). [online] Available at: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1386&context=cc_etds_theses [Accessed 14 May 2018].
Pitt.edu. (2018). Grimm 052: King Thrushbeard. [online] Available at: https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm052.html [Accessed 16 May 2018].