So, this is yet another weird little story brought to us by the Brothers Grimm that has managed to hang on and come back through every printed version of Grimm's fairytales. It seems to be very popular but there's an element of this story that has me asking a really important question and it doesn't seem that anyone has really answered it, as yet. But first... the story!
This story centers on three poor brothers from the Black Mountains who decide to set off to seek their fortune. They made their way to Spain, where they came upon a mountain surrounded by silver.
Once upon a time there was a shoemaker who had three sons and a goat. The sons had to help him in his trade, and the goat had to nourish them with her milk. In order for the goat to get good, delicious food every day, the sons took turns and led her out to graze in a meadow.
The purpose of the women's existence also varies, depending on the combination of elements that are driving their legend and the time and place in which the story is being told. Some are looking to rescue or replace the children that have been lost to them. Some appear to herald the deaths of others. And some find themselves stuck in a recursive loop, repeating their deaths over and over again, never resting and affecting nothing.
The younger brother was surprised that the cat could talk but apparently got over that pretty fast and did what the cat asked. After the cat donned his fancy new boots, he gathered up a burlap sack of wheat and went walking away on his back feet. Using the wheat to trap some fat partridges, the cat then went off in search of a king.
Well, for a nice change of pace we have a maiden that is being sought by a man and when she realizes how thoughtless and rude he is, she sends him packing. This is one of the few stories we've had that shows a fairytale maiden taking charge of her agency and deciding her own fate, though admittedly, it does take a bit.
A miller, who was so poor that he had nothing else but his mill and a large apple tree behind it, went into the forest to fetch wood. While there he met an old man who said: 'Why are you torturing yourself so much? I’ll make you rich if you promise to give me what’s behind your mill. In three years I’ll come and fetch what’s mine.'
this story has been told in a number of ways and the basic gist is pretty much always the same: a varying number of older brothers get turned into birds of some kind (usually swans, geese, ducks, or ravens) by a female family member that wants them to just go away and and so the clever and devoted little sister must search them out and break their curse. There are some variations that don't include the brothers turning into birds, like the North African story "Udea and Her Seven Brothers," but even that involves assistance from ravens and pigeons.
Much like Santa Claus, Perchta was believed to visit houses between Christmas and Epiphany in search of who had been good or bad. If you had been a good child--worked hard and behaved yourself--you might find a silver coin in your shoe. If you hadn't, well...
Cinderella has got to be the most well-known fairytale in the world. It is also incredibly old and has thousands of variations...That being said, there is no way that I can possibly do full justice to the rich and fascinating history of this tale type. But I'll do my best to give a suitable overview of the Grimm version.