Thursday, 2 June 2011

The Swineherd.

I'd like to present, for your enjoyment, one of Andersons lesser known stories. I strongly suspect that it is largely skipped over because it doesn't follow the generic fairy tale formula in which Prince A meets princess B through some highly suspicious circumstances and, after dispatching baddie C they live happily ever after.
                                                 (A-CB) rB) = AB  [1]

Instead this prince actually shows some initiative and instead of brooding eternally when the princess rejects him he actually does something about it.

The Story:
Once there lived a poor but handsome prince. Although his kingdom was small he was very famous [2]  If he would send proposal letter to all the princesses he wouldy get at least 100 princess replying to his request.  [3]
On his fathers grave there grew a most beautiful rose plant that produces flowers only once in a lifetime. It smelt so sweet that by inhaling it's fragrance you would forget all your problems [4]
Our prince also owned a special nightingale bird that could call all the music in the world [5]
When he had sifted through all the responses and found the princess that he liked best he sent the rose and the bird in a pair of silver caskets as a dowry [6]

When they arrived at the court the princess clapped her hands in delight and said "I wish I could get a pussy cat for a present!" and she opened the box to finally answer Schrödinger's paradox ie: that that the cat in the box may be alive, dead or it may be a rose for that is what it was.
Everyone at court remarks on how beautiful the rose is but the princess sets it aside petulantly [7] saying "It is a real rose and not artificial"
She opens the second box to reveal the nightingale and again everyone remarks on the wondrous nature of the gift and when the bird sings it brings tears to the eyes of the most stony of faces for they remember first loves and lost loves with nostalgic fondness.

Surely nobody could find fault with this gift, Nobody except our princess because she decides that she doesn't like it because again, it is alive and natural. Thus the prince was not granted an audience with the princess. [8]

But our hero was not so easily dissuaded, he disguised himself as a servant and got himself a job looking after the royal swine herd which obviously was going to look really good on his resume.
It wasn't all bad news, he got a small room at a very reasonable price and while the pigs did their piggy duties he sat down and made a beautiful kitchen pot. What was unique about this pot was that it had many little bells around it and although you'd think that this was the amazing bit you'd be wrong. The amazing thing about this pot is that if you hold your finger over the smoke when it is cooking you will be able to smell all the dishes in the kingdom that are being cooked. [9]

The princess happens to be going past the swine pen one day and her interest is piqued by the sound of the bells and decides that she wants the pot [10] and she sends out a maid to talk to the disguised prince.
"Tell the princess I'll give her the pot if she kisses me ten times"
Although the princess attempts to negotiate the prince stands firm and she eventually gives him the ten kisses and he gives her the pot and everybody comes away with a smile.

Once again the prince sits in his room and this time he produces a rattle that plays all sorts of tunes naturally he "just happens" to be playing it when the princess is around and she wants it. [11]
Again the maid is sent round and this time the prince tells her that the price is 100 kisses
The maid protests that the princess can't kiss a swineherd a hundred times and the prince shrugs his shoulders and returns to the royal pigs.
This rankles as it was intended to and the princess agrees to pay the toll.


The princess's father was partaking of a walk on a pleasant day when he saw his daughters maids making sure that nobody saw what was going on and she was on the 86th kiss when he pushed his way to the front
"Get out of my kingdom!" he orders them both and personally shut the doors in their faces.
"Alas" the princess says, languishing at the Olympic level "I am thrown outside the city. I should have married the handsome young prince"
The swineherd tells her "wait right there" and he washes his face, dusts the bootprint out of backside and returns in his princely robes. There is no mistaking exactly who he is. The princess feels her spirits lift when she sees him and if this were the Disney version then the audience would surely be in for a musical number.

But this is far removed from any Disney production because the prince says "You wouldn't take the lovely rose and the nightingale but sought the trumpery [12] playthings. You deserve your consequences" [13] The prince went back to his own palace in his kingdom and shut the door in her face and that is the end of the story.

Comments and Questions:
  • The Gifts:
    Readers with keen intellects [14] will have noticed that there is a correlation between the gifts that he gave her at first, the rose vs the cooking pot and the nightingale vs the rattle. There usually is although the gifts change depending on what version of the story you happen to be reading.  The general rule however is that if the first gift is natural then the one that she pays the kisses for is artificial and vice versa. Obviously the princess was never going to accept the first gifts because that would change the story to "the time the princess got some presents and then married the prince" 
  • The Prince:
    Obviously he was justified in his revenge. But how long would he have kept the swineherd act up?
    I imagine that it would have depended on exactly how poor his kingdom actually was.
    If his father is dead how is this person still a prince?
     Either he is too young to come into his majority in which case why is he looking for a wife or it turned out that his brother who wasn't as good looking but was better at not sending proposals to princesses galore now sits upon the throne. 
  • The Princess
    What happened to her after the prince closed the door in her face? We don't know and are not expected to ask. It is enough that she got bitten by the great big bug of Karma
    Why didn't the princess just talk to a trusted guard or bullyboy and get the pot and the rattle that way?
     Surely she has another suitor who would happily thrash this disrespectful swineherd for the chance to get into her, good books. Although I feel that this would have changed the story from "The time the princess learned a lesson" to "The time Princess Grabby plunged us all into war"

  • Now you could make a case that this whole story is an allegorical tale of mankinds eternal magpielike fetish with the eternally new and sparkly and our collective turning away from the natural world but since this is the Internet you could make a case that this tale is clearly responsible for the fall of the Jedi and the rise of Crappy Star Wars Knock offs. [15]

    So here's a question. where is the character progression? although we are clearly supposed to side with the prince throughout the story the only character that was given the opportunity to demonstrate any sort of growth was Princess Grabby who was taught not to judge by appearances in a manner most painful.  At least we hope that she learned it because those that forget the mistakes of the past etc.
    So then is there actually a moral in the tale? Don't be shocked but in Hans Christian Andersons Stories there isn't always, sometimes it's a case of "here are some crazy things that happened" Perhaps the lesson that we should be taking away is along the lines of Graciousness in all things. After all if Princess Grabby had received the prince, even if it was to tell him he didn't have a chance in hell [16] then this whole thing might have been avoided. 
  1.  10 minutes on this equation and I still don't think I got it right. Damn you theoretical algebra!
  2. Presumably for being handsome. Being a prince doesn't leave much room for actual work
  3. The ones from Nigerian royalty were binned pretty quickly
  4. I once had a plant like that as well but the court made me stop growing it
  5. Guaranteeing that at least one of the letters our prince received would have been from the RIAA
  6. Where today we would just send a card asking her out
  7. Or possibly petelalantuly but I refuse to sink to such wordplay. This isn't Asterix and if it were there would be more Romans and at least one utterance of "Wstfgl"
  8. Did she return the gifts at least?
  9. And invite yourself round to dinner of course
  10. Nope. Way to easy
  11. I am officially naming her Princess Grabby
  12. Trumpery ~ noun 1. nonsensical talk or writing 2. ornamental objects of no great value 
  13. The actual words of the princes speech changes from version to version but the message of "You done messed this up but good" remains the same.
  14. Of which you are, obviously, one
  15. and rising oil prices! It all ties in Sheeple! 
  16. But graciously of course


  1. I love your observations...they are so spot on (and quite witty!). You're right that not all of his tales have morals, but one does walk away with "graciousness" on their mind when recalling this one. I think the 2011 lesson to be learned from it could also simply be "Don't be a gold digger, skank." (Yet again, there is graciousness, as you suggested. Had she not been such a greedy person, and graciously accepted his kind gifts (or rejected them, whichever), the whole matter could have been avoided. It's sort of ironic that she probably will end up with a swine herder now)

    As far as the magic pot....I keep thinking how terrible that would be. To be able to smell all of the dishes cooking in the kingdom? No thanks. I don't know if you know what chitterlings (or, chitlins) are....but, in my kingdom, people cook quite a lot of that. They smell exactly like the stuff they once held when they were in the pig, while they cook. *shiver*

    No, I'd rather have the rose. XD

  2. Hi, I enjoyed the story and your comments...I know that Disney would have ruined the story if he had gotten his hands on it...he certainly changed the outcome of Little Mermaid with his rendition of it..Many of Andersen's tales ended on a sad note, but then, Andersen was a great student of human nature. Life is not a fairy tale, and more often than not, doesn't have "happy ever after" endings. I enjoyed the analysis you did of the story. I believe both the prince and the princess had huge egos that got in the way of either of them being happy or giving in to the other. After all, royalty does have tremendous "self-worth" issues. Good thoughtful post.

  3. I've got an image in my head of Anderson and the Grim Brothers getting in each others faces at the local pub because of their differences in writing. Clearly it would only be a matter of time before someone throws a punch.

    I don't know why Disney has to change the endings to such great stories, well actually I do know and it's because if you have a sad ending people might not want to go see it.
    Certainly nobody ever went to see Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth and came away smiling, except for me because I always thought she should have ended up with Paris.

    I haven't had the pleasure of Chitterlings are but I'll put it up against haggis anyday! They actually have a piper to come out of the kitchen first so that people are warned that its coming and if they stay on after that then it's their own fault

  4. Oh and by the way:

    [A<D] = AE – (CB) r BE) = AEBE

    A - prince
    B - princess
    C - baddie
    D - highly suspicious circumstances
    E - Experience

  5. I think, in the above scenario, that it would be the Brothers Grimm who threw the first

    The Disney movies such as Cinderella, are cute, but kids should know the stories as they are written. They're much more entertaining, anyway.

    (Agreed, on Paris. Juliet was a fool. But, the play would have been a lot lamer with much less tragedy)

    And haggis, that is positively foul. I tried it once at a "let's get back to our roots" sort of thing my mother's paternal side do once a year, and I just did not care for it, stench, flavor, and all. Chitterlings...they actually taste good, especially topped on turnip greens....but you cannot eat them if you're in the home while they're cooking. They are pig intestines..and emit the aroma of a sewer as they cook. (But, they do not smell once they are on a plate..but you won't care because the hostess's home now smells foul) Still, if you're invited to dinner by a woman and you casually say, "Oh, that would be lovely. What are we to be dining on?"...and she says "Why, chitlin's, of course...", you know to make your excuses and run the other way. I just did you a solid, mate. ;) (LoL)

  6. Wow! Never knew Andersen had this fairytale hidden somewhere. I love the equation, by the way. Thanks for sharing!