Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Red, and not just Riding Hood

And once again we are on solid ground. R is for Red, and the many folktales associated with this color.

First up, we have yet another one of the Seven Wise Princesses (if you are keeping track, we have met Blue, Green and Ebony so far). The Red Princess is from Russia (or, rather, the historic Rus), and lives in the Red Pavilion dedicated to Mars. The tale she tells to Bahram Gur is probably my favorite out of the seven.  It is about a Russian princess who did not want to get married, but her father pressured into agreeing that she can set whatever task she wants to set, as long as she marries the man who completes it. In turn, the princess built a fortress surrounded by killing machines and traps, and declared that whoever can sneak in an meet her in the inner courtyard, and answer her riddles after that, can marry her. As stories usually go, after a while a hero shows up who is capable of sneaking in, and also capable of solving the riddles. Whatever. I like this story mostly because of the active part the princess plays in shaping the hero's task, and because all the riddles are pretty much constructed in a way that there is only a right answer to them if she accepts is as a right answer. Plus, she does magic. Very cool.

Other tales that include the color red are:

Little Red Riding Hood (I don't think I need to introduce this one)

Snow White and Rose Red (Much more entertaining than Snow White if you ask me, and also masterfully adapted in the Fables comics)

The Red Shoes (A classic Andersen story, gruesome and depressing in true Andersen fashion. A little girl loves her red dancing shoes and doesn't pay attention in church, therefore an angel curses her to dance forever, a sentence she only gets away from by having her feet chopped off, and then she prays until God takes pity on her and lets her die. This, boys and girls, is why I don't tell Andersen.)

The Red Dwarf of Detroit (one of the most entertaining urban legends in the USA)

The Little Rabbit who wanted red wings (a cute Southern folktale that children especially like, about a little rabbit that wishes for bits and pieces of other animals to be more like them)

For more folktale goodness, check out Andrew Lang's classic Red Fairy Book.


  1. I read Snow White and Rose Red before I had heard of Snow White, and yes, I liked this story better than Snow White - it's much more proactive on the part of the girls. That Rus princess is clever with those riddles - so if she likes the guy, she can accept his answers :)
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles - A to Z Ghosts
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  2. The Red Princess has her head screwed on, I like that. :) I always hated The Red Shoes story; it was so dark. I have never heard of the Red Dwarf of Detroit; it sounds like you don't really ever want to meet him because then you're in for trouble.
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  3. I like the Red Princess' attitude! I remember Snow White and Rose Red from my childhood - we had a set of fairytale books (about 20 of them) and this was one of my favourites.

    Eileen @ In My Playroom (also doing the A to Z Challenge)

  4. Nice story about the Red Princess...the lady has figured out well what she wants. Good for her! The boldness of the red colour and her attitude go well together :)

  5. Love the tone of the Red Princess - power to the princess here!!
    The Red dancing shoes is too dark.... :( never knew about this folktale!

  6. I do like how proactive the princess is in this story you relate. Makes sense it was told in the pavilion of Mars.

  7. I remember The Red Shoes... vaguely...
    So all Andersen's stories are gruesome and depressing?
    I can't recall. Maybe that's the reason why. I must have blocked them out. LOL