Authors: The Grey Fairy Book
The tales in the Grey Fairy Book are derived from many countries-
-Lithuania, various parts of Africa, Germany, France, Greece, and
other regions of the world. They have been translated and adapted
by Mrs. Dent, Mrs. Lang, Miss Eleanor Sellar, Miss Blackley, and
Miss hang. 'The Three Sons of Hali' is from the last century
'Cabinet des Fees,' a very large collection. The French author
may have had some Oriental original before him in parts; at all
events he copied the Eastern method of putting tale within tale,
like the Eastern balls of carved ivory. The stories, as usual,
illustrate the method of popular fiction. A certain number of
incidents are shaken into many varying combinations, like the
fragments of coloured glass in the kaleidoscope. Probably the
possible combinations, like possible musical combinations, are
not unlimited in number, but children may be less sensitive in
the matter of fairies than Mr. John Stuart Mill was as regards
There was once upon a time a king who was so much beloved by his
subjects that he thought himself the happiest monarch in the
whole world, and he had everything his heart could desire. His
palace was filled with the rarest of curiosities, and his gardens
with the sweetest flowers, while in the marble stalls of his
stables stood a row of milk-white Arabs, with big brown eyes.
Strangers who had heard of the marvels which the king had
collected, and made long journeys to see them, were, however,
surprised to find the most splendid stall of all occupied by a
donkey, with particularly large and drooping ears. It was a very
fine donkey; but still, as far as they could tell, nothing so
very remarkable as to account for the care with which it was
lodged; and they went away wondering, for they could not know
that every night, when it was asleep, bushels of gold pieces
tumbled out of its ears, which were picked up each morning by the
After many years of prosperity a sudden blow fell upon the king
in the death of his wife, whom he loved dearly. But before she
died, the queen, who had always thought first of his happiness,
gathered all her strength, and said to him:
'Promise me one thing: you must marry again, I know, for the good
of your people, as well as of yourself. But do not set about it
in a hurry. Wait until you have found a woman more beautiful and
better formed than myself.'
'Oh, do not speak to me of marrying,' sobbed the king; 'rather
let me die with you!' But the queen only smiled faintly, and
turned over on her pillow and died.
For some months the king's grief was great; then gradually he
began to forget a little, and, besides, his counsellors were
always urging him to seek another wife. At first he refused to
listen to them, but by-and-by he allowed himself to be persuaded
to think of it, only stipulating that the bride should be more
beautiful and attractive than the late queen, according to the
promise he had made her.
Overjoyed at having obtained what they wanted, the counsellors
sent envoys far and wide to get portraits of all the most famous
beauties of every country. The artists were very busy and did
their best, but, alas! nobody could even pretend that any of the
ladies could compare for a moment with the late queen.
At length, one day, when he had turned away discouraged from a
fresh collection of pictures, the king's eyes fell on his adopted
daughter, who had lived in the palace since she was a baby, and
he saw that, if a woman existed on the whole earth more lovely
than the queen, this was she! He at once made known what his
wishes were, but the young girl, who was not at all ambitious,
and had not the faintest desire to marry him, was filled with
dismay, and begged for time to think about it. That night, when
everyone was asleep, she started in a little car drawn by a big
sheep, and went to consult her fairy godmother.
'I know what you have come to tell me,' said the fairy, when the
maiden stepped out of the car; 'and if you don't wish to marry
him, I will show you how to avoid it. Ask him to give you a dress
that exactly matches the sky. It will be impossible for him to
get one, so you will be quite safe.' The girl thanked the fairy
and returned home again.
The next morning, when her father (as she had always called him)
came to see her, she told him that she could give him no answer
until he had presented her with a dress the colour of the sky.
The king, overjoyed at this answer, sent for all the choicest
weavers and dressmakers in the kingdom, and commanded them to
make a robe the colour of the sky without an instant's delay, or
he would cut off their heads at once. Dreadfully frightened at
this threat, they all began to dye and cut and sew, and in two
days they brought back the dress, which looked as if it had been
cut straight out of the heavens! The poor girl was thunderstruck,
and did not know what to do; so in the night she harnessed her
sheep again, and went in search of her godmother.
'The king is cleverer than I thought,' said the fairy; 'but tell
him you must have a dress of moonbeams.'
And the next day, when the king summoned her into his presence,
the girl told him what she wanted.
'Madam, I can refuse you nothing,' said he; and he ordered the
dress to be ready in twenty-four hours, or every man should be
They set to work with all their might, and by dawn next day, the
dress of moonbeams was laid across her bed. The girl, though she
could not help admiring its beauty, began to cry, till the fairy,
who heard her, came to her help.
'Well, I could not have believed it of him!' said she; 'but ask
for a dress of sunshine, and I shall be surprised indeed if he
manages that! '
The goddaughter did not feel much faith in the fairy after her
two previous failures; but not knowing what else to do, she told
her father what she was bid.
The king made no difficulties about it, and even gave his finest
rubies and diamonds to ornament the dress, which was so dazzling,
when finished, that it could not be looked at save through smoked
When the princess saw it, she pretended that the sight hurt her
eyes, and retired to her room, where she found the fairy awaiting
her, very much ashamed of herself.
'There is only one thing to be done now,' cried she; 'you must
demand the skin of the ass he sets such store by. It is from that
donkey he obtains all his vast riches, and I am sure he will
never give it to you.'
The princess was not so certain; however, she went to the king,
and told him she could never marry him till he had given her the
The king was both astonished and grieved at this new request, but
did not hesitate an instant. The ass was sacrificed, and the skin
laid at the feet of the princess.
The poor girl, seeing no escape from the fate she dreaded, wept
afresh, and tore her hair; when, suddenly, the fairy stood before
'Take heart,' she said, ' all will now go well! Wrap yourself in
this skin, and leave the palace and go as far as you can. I will
look after you. Your dresses and your jewels shall follow you
underground, and if you strike the earth whenever you need
anything, you will have it at once. But go quickly: you have no
time to lose.'
So the princess clothed herself in the ass's skin, and slipped
from the palace without being seen by anyone.
Directly she was missed there was a great hue and cry, and every
corner, possible and impossible, was searched. Then the king sent
out parties along all the roads, but the fairy threw her
invisible mantle over the girl when they approached, and none of
them could see her.
The princess walked on a long, long way, trying to find some one
who would take her in, and let her work for them; but though the
cottagers, whose houses she passed, gave her food from charity,
the ass's skin was so dirty they would not allow her to enter
their houses. For her flight had been so hurried she had had no
time to clean it.
Tired and disheartened at her ill-fortune, she was wandering, one
day, past the gate of a farmyard, situated just outside the walls
of a large town, when she heard a voice calling to her. She
turned and saw the farmer's wife standing among her turkeys, and
making signs to her to come in.
'I want a girl to wash the dishes and feed the turkeys, and clean
out the pig-sty,' said the w omen, 'and, to judge by your dirty
clothes, you would not be too fine for the work.'
The girl accepted her offer with joy, and she was at once set to
work in a corner of the kitchen, where all the farm servants came
and made fun of her, and the ass's skin in which she was wrapped.
But by-and-by they got so used to the sight of it that it ceased
to amuse them, and she worked so hard and so well, that her
mistress grew quite fond of her. And she was so clever at keeping
sheep and herding turkeys that you would have thought she had
done nothing else during her whole life!
One day she was sitting on the banks of a stream bewailing her
wretched lot, when she suddenly caught sight of herself in the
water. Her hair and part of her face was quite concealed by the
ass's head, which was drawn right over like a hood, and the
filthy matted skin covered her whole body. It was the first time
she had seen herself as other people saw her, and she was filled
with shame at the spectacle. Then she threw off her disguise and
jumped into the water, plunging in again and again, till she
shone like ivory. When it was time to go back to the farm, she
was forced to put on the skin which disguised her, and now seemed
more dirty than ever; but, as she did so, she comforted herself
with the thought that to-morrow was a holiday, and that she would
be able for a few hours to forget that she was a farm girl, and
be a princess once more.