Starting this week, I’ll be going through a collection of humorous short stories by Gail Carson Levine, called The Fairy’s Return and Other Princess Tales. This week’s story is The Fairy’s Mistake.
I hope you enjoy!
Author Postcript: As it turns out, this is the only short story I’ve talked about. However, even though I haven’t mentioned the others, I still highly recommend them. They’re fun, humorous, and don’t take long to read.
This is about as much of a fairytale as a fairytale can be. It’s kind of a conglomeration of every fairytale where a fairy punishes the bad sister and rewards the good sister. The big difference, though, is the outcome.
Rosella and Myrtle are the daughters of widow Pickering, in the village of Snettering-on-Snoakes. Rosella is the usual good daughter, neglected by her mother and forced to do all sorts of chores. That is, until she meets the fairy Ethelinda. As payment for her kindness, she gets a gift. Whenever she talks, jewels will fall out of her mouth. But that’s not the case with her sister, Myrtle. Thanks to her rudeness, bugs will come out of her mouth every time she talks.
Soon, Prince Harold rides by, and after spotting the jewels, takes Rosella to the castle to marry him. But things go downhill from there, certainly from Ethelinda’s perspective. Rosella quickly gets sick from being forced to talk too much, and nothing goes her way. Her ladies-in-waiting constantly fight over her jewels, Prince Harold wants to keep all the jewels so he can get a new castle and carriage, and she’s forced to eat food that she absolutely hates. Meanwhile, Myrtle bullies the whole town into attending her birthday party using the bugs from her mouth, and she and her mother have a grand old time. Eventually, Ethelinda is so fed up that she appears to Harold in person. Unfortunately, he doesn’t take her seriously, and she’s forced to take matters into her own hands.
As a result, Myrtle and Rosella switch places for the night, frightening Prince Harold into giving into her demands. Rosella and Harold agree to split things fifty-fifty. Harold eventually gets the moat and new castle he wants, while Rosella keeps her subjects happy and fed. Myrtle and her mother make a huge amount of money racing insects, and they all live happily ever after.
Now, for all intents and purposes, this is a traditional fairytale. There’s the good sister and the bad one, the indifferent mother, and the fairy who steps in to solve the problems. But in this sense, it isn’t. For one thing, Ethelinda’s gifts don’t have their desired result. Rosella ends up sick, while Myrtle and her mother throw a birthday party for free. For another, the story doesn’t end horribly for Myrtle and her mother. In most stories, the bad sister and the mother either end up in jail or dead, while the good sister usually marries the prince and lives happily ever after. But this one rather wisely points out that Myrtle isn’t an awful human being — she’s just spoiled, partly because of her mother. In the end, she and Rosella learn to appreciate one another, and she finds something that gives her life meaning.
All in all, this is exactly the sort of story that gives the reader a warm, cozy sensation after finishing. And a nice twist on the good sister-bad sister trope in fairytales.
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What do you think about this story? Let me know in the comments!
And if you have any suggestions about topics, let me know there as well. I’d love to hear them!
Your Fairytale Enthusiast