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LES DOUZE PRINCESSES DANSANTES DE LA NUIT

http://www.grimmstories.com/fr/grimm_contes/les_souliers_au_bal_uses

Les souliers au bal usés

Les frères Grimm - KHM 133

Le roi avait douze filles, plus belles les unes que les autres. Elles dormaient ensemble dans
une vaste pièce, leurs lits étaient alignés côte à côte, et chaque soir, dès qu'elles étaient
couchées, le roi refermait la porte et poussait le verrou. Or, le roi constatait tous les matins,
après avoir ouvert la porte, que les princesses avaient des souliers usés par la danse. Personne
n'était capable d'élucider le mystère. Le roi proclama alors que celui qui trouverait où
dansaient les princesses toutes les nuits, pourrait choisir une de ses filles pour épouse et
deviendrait roi après sa mort. Mais le prétendant qui, au bout de trois jours et trois nuits,
n'aurait rien découvert, aurait la tête coupée.
Bientôt, un prince, voulant tenter sa chance, se présenta. il fut très bien accueilli, et le soir on
l'accompagna dans la chambre contiguë à la chambre à coucher des filles royales. On lui
prépara son lit et le prince n'avait plus qu'à surveiller les filles pour découvrir où elles allaient
danser ; et pour qu'elles ne puissent rien faire en cachette, la porte de la chambre à coucher
resta ouverte.
Mais les paupières du prince s'alourdirent tout à coup et il s'endormit. Lorsqu'il se réveilla le
matin, il ne put que constater que les princesses avaient été au bal et avaient dansé toutes les
douze : leurs souliers rangés sous leurs lits étaient complètement usés. Les deuxième et
troisième soirs il n'en fut pas autrement et le lendemain, le prince eut la tête coupée.
Par la suite, de nombreux garçons encore avaient visité le palais, mais tous payèrent leur
courage de leur vie. Puis, un jour, un soldat pauvre et blessé qui ne pouvait plus servir dans
l'armée, marcha vers la ville où siégeait le roi. Sur son chemin, il rencontra une vieille femme
qui lui demanda où il allait.
- Je ne sais pas bien moi-même, répondit le soldat, et il ajouta en plaisantant :J'aurais bien
envie de découvrir où toutes ces princesses dansent toutes les nuits !
- Ce n'est pas si difficile, dit la vieille femme, il faudrait que tu ne boives pas le vin qu'ils vont
te servir et que tu fasses semblant de dormir d'un sommeil de plomb.
Puis, elle lui tendit une cape en disant :
- Si tu mets cette cape, tu deviendras invisible et tu pourras ainsi épier les douze danseuses.
Fort de ces bons conseils, le soldat se mit sérieusement à envisager d'aller au palais. Il prit son
courage à deux mains, se présenta devant le roi et se déclara prêt à relever le défi. Il fut
accueilli avec autant de soins que ses prédécesseurs et fut même revêtu d'un habit princier. Le
soir venu, tout le monde se prépara à aller se coucher et le soldat fut amené dans l'antichambre
des filles royales. Avant qu'il ne se couche, la princesse aînée entra, lui apportant une coupe de
vin. Or, le soldat avait auparavant attaché sous son menton un petit tuyau ; il laissa le vin
couler à l'intérieur et n'en avala donc pas une goutte. Il se coucha, puis il attendit un peu avant
de se mettre à ronfler comme s'il dormait profondément.
Dès que les princesses l'entendirent, elles se mirent à rire et l'aînée dit :
- Quel dommage de risquer sa vie ainsi !
Elles se levèrent, ouvrirent les armoires, en sortirent des robes superbes et commencèrent à se
faire belles devant la glace ; elles sautillaient, se réjouissant par avance de la soirée qui les
attendait. Mais la plus jeune s'inquiéta :
- Vous vous réjouissez, mais moi j'ai comme un pressentiment. Un malheur nous attend.
- Ne sois pas bête, dit l'aînée, balayant ses soucis, tu es toujours inquiète. As-tu déjà oublié
combien de princes nous ont déjà surveillées en vain ? Et le soldat à côté n'a même pas eu
besoin de la potion pour s'endormir. Ce pauvre bougre ne se réveillera pas quoiqu'il arrive.
Néanmoins, lorsque les douze princesses eurent fini de s'habiller, elles allèrent jeter un coup
d'œil sur le soldat. Il avait les yeux fermés, respirait régulièrement et ne bougeait pas ; elles en
conclurent qu'il n'y avait n'en à craindre. L'aînée s'approcha de son lit et frappa. Le lit s'effaça
aussitôt pour laisser place à un escalier qui s'enfonçait sous la terre et les sœurs descendirent
par ce passage. L'aînée ouvrait la marche, les autres la suivaient, l'une après l'autre. Le soldat
avait tout vu et n'hésita pas longtemps : il jeta la cape sur ses épaules et se mit à descendre
derrière la benjamine. Au milieu de l'escalier, il marcha un peu sur sa jupe ; la princesse eut
peur et s'écria :
- Qu'est-ce que c'est ? Qui est-ce qui tient ma robe ?
- Que tu es bête ! la fit taire l'aînée, tu as dû juste t'accrocher à un clou.
Elles descendirent tout en bas pour se retrouver dans une allée merveilleuse. Les feuilles des
arbres y étaient en argent, elles brillaient et scintillaient.
- Il faut que je garde une preuve, décida le soldat.
Il cassa une petite branche, mais l'arbre craqua très fort.
- Il se passe quelque chose s'écria, anxieuse, la plus jeune princesse. Avez-vous entendu ce
bruit ?
Mais l'aînée la calma :
- Ce sont des coups de canon. Nos princes se réjouissent que nous allions bientôt les délivrer.
Elles avancèrent dans une autre allée où les feuilles étaient en or, et finalement elles entrèrent
dans une allée où sur les arbres de vrais diamants étincelaient. Le soldat arracha une petite
branche dans l'allée d'or et dans celle aux diamants et à chaque fois un craquement retentit. La
plus jeune des princesses avait peur et sursautait à chaque fois ; mais l'aînée persistait à dire
qu'il s'agissait bien des coups de canon en leur honneur.
Elles continuèrent leur chemin lorsqu'elles arrivèrent à un lac ; près de la rive voguaient douze
barques et dans chacune d'elles se tenait un très beau prince. Les douze princes attendaient
leurs douze princesses. Chacun en prit une dans sa barque. Le soldat s'assit près de la plus
jeune.
- Je ne comprends pas, s'étonna le prince, la barque me semble aujourd'hui plus lourde que
d'habitude. je dois ramer de toutes mes forces pour avancer.
- Ça doit être la chaleur ou l'orage, estima la petite princesse, je me sens moi aussi toute
moite.
Sur l'autre rive brillait un palais magnifique, tout illuminé, et une musique très gaie s'en
échappait. Le roulement des tambours et le son des trompettes résonnaient à la surface de
l'eau. Les princes et les princesses accostèrent et entrèrent dans le palais, puis chaque prince
invita la princesse de son choix à danser. Le soldat, toujours invisible, dansa avec eux, et
chaque fois qu'une princesse prenait une coupe dans la main, il buvait le vin qu'elle contenait
avant que la princesse ne pût approcher la coupe de ses lèvres. La plus jeune princesse en était
toute retournée mais l'aînée était toujours là pour la rassurer.
Ils dansèrent toute la nuit, jusqu'à trois heures du matin ; à ce moment les semelles des
souliers des princesses étaient déjà usées et elles durent s'arrêter. Les princes les ramenèrent
sur l'autre rive, le soldat s'étant cette fois-ci assis à côté de l'aînée. Les princesses firent leurs
adieux aux princes et promirent de revenir. Le soldat les devança en montant les marches,
sauta dans son lit et lorsque les douze princesses fatiguées arrivèrent en haut à petits pas, dans
la chambre un ronflement très fort résonnait déjà.
Les princesses l'ayant entendu, se dirent :
- Avec celui-là, il n'y a rien à craindre.
Et elles se déshabillèrent, rangèrent leurs belles robes dans les armoires, leurs souliers usés
sous les lits et elles se couchèrent.
Le lendemain matin, le soldat décida de ne rien dire. Il avait envie d'aller au moins une fois
encore avec elles pour être témoin de leurs étonnantes réjouissances. Il suivit donc les
princesses la deuxième et la troisième nuit et tout se passa exactement comme la première fois
; les princesses dansèrent jusqu'à ce que leurs souliers soient usés jusqu'à la corde. La
troisième nuit, le soldat emporta une coupe comme preuve.
Vint l'instant où le soldat dut donner la réponse au roi. Il mit dans sa poche les trois petites
branches ainsi que la coupe, et il se présenta devant le trône. Les douze princesses se tenaient
derrière la porte pour écouter ce qu'il allait dire.
Le roi demanda d'emblée :
- Où mes douze filles dansent-elles pour user tant leurs souliers ?
- Dans un palais qui est sous terre, répondit le soldat. Elles y dansent avec douze princes.
Et il se mit à raconter comment tout cela se passait ; et il montra les preuves. Le roi appela ses
filles et leur demanda si le soldat avait dit la vérité. Les princesses, voyant que leur secret était
découvert et qu'il ne servait à rien de nier, durent, bon gré mal gré, reconnaître les faits.
Lorsqu'elles avouèrent, le roi demanda au soldat laquelle des douze princesses il souhaitait
épouser.
- Je ne suis plus un jeune homme, dit le soldat, donnez-moi votre fille aînée.
Les noces eurent lieu le jour même et le roi promit au soldat qu'après sa mort il deviendrait
roi. Et les princes sous la terre furent à nouveau ensorcelés jusqu'à ce que se soient écoulées
autant de nuits qu'ils en avaient passé à danser avec les princesses.

FIN

Classification (Aarne-Thompson):
AT 0306 - The Danced-Out Shoes

http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/twelvedancing/index.html

The following is an annotated version of the fairy tale. I recommend reading the entire
story before exploring the annotations, especially if you have not read the tale recently.

THERE was once upon a time a King1 who had twelve daughters,2 each one more beautiful
than the other.3 They all slept together in one chamber, in which their beds stood side by
side,4 and every night when they were in them the King locked the door, and bolted it.5 But
in the morning when he unlocked the door, he saw that their shoes were worn out with
dancing,6 and no one could find out how that had come to pass. Then the King caused it to be
proclaimed that whosoever could discover where they danced at night, should choose one of
them for his wife and be King after his death,7 but that whosoever came forward and had not
discovered it within three days and nights,8 should have forfeited his life.

It was not long before a King's son9 presented himself, and offered to undertake the
enterprise. He was well received, and in the evening was led into a room adjoining the
princesses' sleeping-chamber.10 His bed was placed there, and he was to observe where they
went and danced, and in order that they might do nothing secretly or go away to some other
place, the door of their room was left open. But the eyelids of the prince grew heavy as lead,
and he fell asleep, and when he awoke in the morning, all twelve had been to the dance, for
their shoes were standing there with holes in the soles. On the second and third nights it fell
out just the same, and then his head was struck off without mercy.11 Many others came after
this and undertook the enterprise, but all forfeited their lives.12

Now it came to pass that a poor soldier, who had a wound,13 and could serve no longer, found
himself on the road to the town where the King lived. There he met an old woman,14 who
asked him where he was going.

"I hardly know myself," answered he, and added in jest, "I had half a mind to discover where
the princesses danced their shoes into holes, and thus become King."

"That is not so difficult," said the old woman, "you must not drink the wine15 which will be
brought to you at night, and must pretend to be sound asleep."

With that she gave him a little cloak, and said, "If you put on that, you will be invisible,16 and
then you can steal after the twelve."

When the soldier had received this good advice, he went into the thing in earnest, took heart,
went to the King, and announced himself as a suitor.17 He was as well received as the others,
and royal garments were put upon him.18 He was conducted that evening at bed-time into the
ante-chamber,19 and as he was about to go to bed, the eldest20 came and brought him a cup
of wine, but he had tied a sponge under his chin,21 and let the wine run down into it, without
drinking a drop. Then he lay down and when he had lain a while, he began to snore, as if in
the deepest sleep.

The twelve princesses heard that, and laughed,22 and the eldest said, "He, too, might as well
have saved his life." With that they got up, opened wardrobes, presses, cupboards, and
brought out pretty dresses; dressed themselves before the mirrors, sprang about, and rejoiced
at the prospect of the dance.23 Only the youngest24 said, "I know not how it is; you are very
happy, but I feel very strange; some misfortune is certainly about to befall us."

"Thou art a goose, who art always frightened," said the eldest."Hast thou forgotten how many
Kings' sons have already come here in vain? I had hardly any need to give the soldier a
sleeping-draught, in any case the clown would not have awakened."

When they were all ready they looked carefully at the soldier, but he had closed his eyes and
did not move or stir, so they felt themselves quite secure. The eldest then went to her bed and
tapped it;25 it immediately sank into the earth, and one after the other they descended through
the opening,26 the eldest going first. The soldier, who had watched everything, tarried no
longer, put on his little cloak, and went down last with the youngest. Half-way down the steps,
he just trod a little on her dress; she was terrified at that, and cried out, "What is that? who is
pulling my dress?"

"Don't be so silly!" said the eldest, "you have caught it on a nail."

Then they went all the way down, and when they were at the bottom, they were standing in a
wonderfully pretty avenue of trees,27 all the leaves of which were of silver,28 and shone and
glistened. The soldier thought, "I must carry a token away with me,"29 and broke off a twig30
from one of them, on which the tree cracked with a loud report.31 The youngest cried out
again. "Something is wrong, did you hear the crack?"
But the eldest said, "It is a gun fired for joy, because we have got rid of our prince so quickly."

After that they came into an avenue where all the leaves were of gold,32 and lastly into a third
where they were of bright diamonds;33 he broke off a twig from each, which made such a
crack each time that the youngest started back in terror, but the eldest still maintained that
they were salutes. They went on and came to a great lake34 whereon stood twelve little
boats,35 and in every boat sat a handsome prince,36 all of whom were waiting for the twelve,
and each took one of them with him, but the soldier seated himself by the youngest.

Then her prince said, "I can't tell why the boat is so much heavier to-day; I shall have to row
with all my strength, if I am to get it across."

"What should cause that," said the youngest, "but the warm weather? I feel very warm too."

On the opposite side of the lake stood a splendid, brightly-lit castle,37 from whence
resounded the joyous music of trumpets38 and kettle-drums.39 They rowed over there,
entered, and each prince danced with the girl he loved, but the soldier danced with them
unseen, and when one of them had a cup of wine in her hand he drank it up,40 so that the cup
was empty when she carried it to her mouth; the youngest was alarmed at this, but the eldest
always made her be silent. They danced there till three o'clock in the morning41 when all the
shoes were danced into holes, and they were forced to leave off; the princes rowed them back
again over the lake, and this time the soldier seated himself by the eldest. On the shore they
took leave of their princes, and promised to return the following night. When they reached the
stairs the soldier ran on in front and lay down in his bed, and when the twelve had come up
slowly and wearily, he was already snoring so loudly that they could all hear him, and they
said, "So far as he is concerned, we are safe." They took off their beautiful dresses, laid them
away, put the worn-out shoes under the bed, and lay down.

Next morning the soldier was resolved not to speak, but to watch the wonderful goings on,42
and again went with them. Then everything was done just as it had been done the first time,
and each time they danced until their shoes were worn to pieces. But the third time he took a
cup away with him as a token. When the hour had arrived for him to give his answer, he took
the three twigs and the cup, and went to the King, but the twelve stood behind the door, and
listened for what he was going to say. When the King put the question, "Where have my
twelve daughters danced their shoes to pieces in the night?" he answered, "In an underground
castle with twelve princes," and related how it had come to pass, and brought out the tokens.
The King then summoned his daughters, and asked them if the soldier had told the truth, and
when they saw that they were betrayed, and that falsehood would be of no avail, they were
obliged to confess all. Thereupon the King asked which of them he would have to wife?

He answered, "I am no longer young, so give me the eldest."43

Then the wedding was celebrated on the self-same day, and the kingdom was promised him
after the King's death. But the princes were bewitched for as many days as they had danced
nights with the twelve.44

By The Brothers Grimm

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London:
George Bell, 1884
http://www.phs.uoa.gr/~atzavar/fr/04.htm

Les souliers usés à la danse (AT 306), conte populaire répandu en Europe et en Orient
(notamment en Perse et en Inde), met en scène une jeune princesse qui s'envole dans la nuit
pour danser avec les fées. Elle use ainsi tous les soirs une nouvelle paire de souliers. Cette
métaphore poétique est considérée par l'auteur comme l'une des représentations de rêve les
plus archaïques, intégrée dans le langage du conte.

The Grimms' Notes For the Tale

From Münster. The incident of the soldier fastening a sponge beneath his chin into which he
lets the sleeping-drink run down, is taken from another story from Paderborn, which has also
the following variations. There are only three princesses whose shoes are every morning
found in holes. Whosover can discover the cause of this, is to have the youngest to wife, but if
he is not able to find it out, must lose his life. Twelve have been hanged already, when the
soldier presents himself as the thirteenth. At night he steals through the secret passage after
them (he has not yet got the cloak which makes him invisible). The three maidens walk till
they come to a lake where three tall giants are standing, each of whom takes one of the
maidens on his back, and carries her through the lake to a castle of copper. The soldier is not
able to follow them, but he perceives a lion and a fox with a cloak and a pair of boots, which
have the property of carrying any one who wears them whithersoever he wishes to be. The
two are quarrelling as to which of them shall have the magic possessions, on which he says,
"Go thirty paces away from me, and then begin to run, and the one who is first here again
shall have them." They are hardly gone before he puts on the boots, throws the cloak around
himself, and wishes to be with the three princesses. Without being seen he seats himself by
the eldest, and eats everything just as she is putting it into her mouth. After they have eaten,
the dance begins, and they dance until their shoes are in holes, and then the giants carry them
back again across the lake. He wishes himself in his bed so that they may seem to find him
fast asleep. On the second night all happens just the same, only the castle is silver, and the
soldier sits down beside the second; on the third night, the castle is golden, and he sits by the
third, his promised bride. On the third day, the soldier discloses all these things to the King,
and receives the youngest of the sisters in marriage, and after the King's death inherits the
kingdom. A third story from Hesse contains much that is characteristic. A King's daughter
dances twelve pairs of shoes into holes every night, and every morning a shoemaker has to
come and measure her for twelve pairs of new ones, which are sent to her at night; and in
order to do this, he has to keep twelve apprentices. No one knows how the shoes are worn into
holes at night, but one evening, when the youngest apprentice is taking the shoes to her and
the maiden happens not to be in her apartment, he thinks, "I will discover how the shoes are
worn out," and gets under her bed. At eleven o'clock at night, the trap-door opens, and eleven
princesses come up who kiss each other, put on the new shoes, and then descend together. The
apprentice, who can make himself invisible, follows; they come to a lake where a boatman
takes them into his boat. He complains that it is heavier than usual. The twelve maidens say,
"Oh, indeed we have brought nothing with us: no handkerchief and no little parcel." They
land, and go into twelve different gardens, one of which belongs to each of them, and there
they pluck the most beautiful flowers, with which they adorn themselves. And now they go to
a castle where twelve princes receive them, and dance with them; all are merry but one
princess, who is melancholy (it seems as if she had seen the handsome apprentice and had
fallen in love with him). They go home again, because their shoes are worn out. When they
are once more up above, they throw the shoes out of the window, where a whole heap of
shoes are already lying. The apprentice steals away, and next morning his master goes to
measure the princess for new ones, but she is still in bed, and bids him come later. When he
returns, she says she will have no more shoes; she only requires one pair, and he is to send
them to her by his youngest apprentice. The latter, however, says, "I will not go; it is the turn
of the eldest." The eldest dresses himself smartly and goes, but she will not have him; but will
have the youngest. Again he says, "I will not go until it is my turn." So the second goes, and
the third, and all of them one after the other until she has sent away the eleventh as well. Then
the youngest says, "If I am to go, I will go just as I am, and will put on no better clothes."
When he gets there, she throws her arms round his neck, and says, "Thou hast delivered me
from the eleven who have had me in their power, and have so tormented me; I love thee with
all my heart, and thou shalt be my husband." Compare the note to The Golden Mountain (No.
92) for the dispute about the magic possessions. For failure in the performance of the
appointed tasks being followed by the punishment of death, see The Riddle (No. 22) and The
Six Servants (No. 134). This story is also known in Poland (see further on). In Hungarian, see
Stier, p. 51.

Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London:
George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 volumes.

SurLaLune's Annotations

1. King: While not always a king, the father is usually royal or a nobleman of some rank in
the European versions of the tale (AT 306). In some French versions, he is a duke. See
Andrew Lang's The Twelve Dancing Princesses for a considerably more detailed version of
the tale.

In a creative modern interpretation, Brothers of the Knight by Debbie Allen, the king is a
preacher who forbids his sons to dance. The sons sneak out each night to dance anyway.

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2. Twelve daughters: This tale appears in many cultures with varying numbers of princesses.
Most often, the tale includes one, three or twelve princesses. Some tales involve one princess
who wears out multiple pairs of shoes--sometimes a dozen--in one night. In one Haitian tale,
the princess has worn out 500 pairs of shoes, although not in one night. To read about oher
versions of the tale, visit the Tales Similar to Twelve Dancing Princesses page.
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3. Each one more beautiful than the other: In romantic fairy tale fashion, the princesses
are physically beautiful. However, their beauty appears to be their birthright and not a
representation of good virtue in this tale. The princesses show no remorse for their
involvement in the mystery and the deaths of the suitors.
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4. They all slept together in one chamber, in which their beds stood side by side:
Companionship, safety, warmth and convenience are often achieved by housing children in
one bedroom.

On a completely unrelated note, this image always reminds me of one of my favorite books as
a child, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans in 1939:

"In an old house in Paris


that was covered with vines
lived twelve little girls
in two straight lines.

"In two straight lines


they broke their bread
and brushed their teeth
and went to bed."

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5. Locked the door, and bolted it: Locked door mysteries have long been part of popular
tales, perhaps growing in popularity with the development of the mystery genre. In modern
mystery fiction, a locked door mystery is a frequently used plot device.

Another famous locked door in a fairy tale, albeit with a very different secret, can be found in
Bluebeard.
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6. Their shoes were worn out with dancing: In times past, wealthy women's dancing shoes
were usually made of silk, satin, soft leather, or other delicate materials. The shoes would
quickly wear thin with much use.
Today, perhaps the most famous types of dancing shoes are ballet slippers and toe shoes.
According to the New York City Ballet: "Toe shoes have a very short life. In performance, the
pressure from jumping, spinning, and balancing causes toe shoes to soften and flatten. A pair
of shoes can be worn out in a single performance. Toe shoes cost $60 dollars a pair and the
New York City Ballet goes through 12,000 pairs a year, for a total of $720,000 a year!"
(http://www.nycballet.com/programs/ballet.html)

Footwear is important in many popular fairy tales, such as Cinderella's slipper, the boots in
Puss in Boots, and the red hot dancing shoes found in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
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7. Choose one of them for his wife and be King after his death: This is a common reward
in fairy tales for solving a problem or mystery for a king or other nobleman. The Brave Little
Tailor is another tale available on SurLaLune with a similar reward: a daughter to wife and
half the kingdom.
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8. Three days and nights: The number and/or pattern of three often appears in fairy tales to
provide rhythm and suspense. The pattern adds drama and suspense while making the story
easy to remember and follow. The third event often signals a change and/or ending for the
listener/reader. A third time also disallows coincidence such as two repetitive events would
suggest.

The reasons and theories behind three's popularity are numerous and diverse. The number has
been considered powerful across history in different cultures and religions, but not all of
them. Christians have the Trinity, the Chinese have the Great Triad (man, heaven, earth), and
the Buddhists have the Triple Jewel (Buddha, Dharma, Sanga). The Greeks had the Three
Fates. Pythagoras considered three to be the perfect number because it represented everything:
the beginning, middle, and end. Some cultures have different powerful numbers, often
favoring seven, four and twelve.
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9. King's son: In romantic fairy tales, a prince is often expected to rescue a damsel in distress
and make her his wife. Here one imagines a younger son, not the crown prince, risking his life
to rescue a princess and marry her since his life is forfeit if he fails. Some versions of
Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty use the motif of a prince as rescuer. While princes are expected
to rescue damsels in distress, they sometimes fail in fairy tales in which the underdog, a poor
and humble man of low birth, usually triumphs at the task instead.

In a related tale, Katie Crackernuts, the rescuer is a heroine named for the title. She solves the
mystery of a prince's mysterious ailment and nightly journeys to a mysterious dance inside a
green hill. After three midnight excursions, she rescues the prince and ends up marrying him.
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10. A room adjoining the princesses' sleeping-chamber: Despite the presence of twelve
princesses to serve as chaperones for each other, the suitors are expected to sleep in a room
separate from the princesses since they are maidens and must maintain their virtuous
reputations, especially prior to marriage.
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11. His head was struck off without mercy: Beheading was a common form of execution in
times past, especially in France where the guillotine was invented and frequently used. Axes
and swords were the most commonly used instruments for beheading.

In other versions of the tale, the failed suitors are hung. Other versions do not describe the
method of execution.
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12. All forfeited their lives: Death is often the punishment for failure in a task or quest in
traditional folklore. Not even a noble birth spares a failure from death, especially in this tale.
Perhaps the rationale is that one must be willing to risk death to win the princess bride and the
kingdom.

According to the Opies: "The do-or-die terms offered to candidates for a princess's hand are
not uncommon in popular literature, but Victorian editors found their harshness unacceptable.
In the age of self help, it was not thinkable that those who strove and failed should be worse
off than those who had never striven" (Opie 1974, 188). The deaths were either glossed over
or completely omitted as a result.

In some versions, the questing princes become enchanted like the princesses, but they remain
in the underground world waiting for the princesses to return each night. In other versions, the
punishment for failure is not death, but humiliation. The suitors leave the castle sitting
backwards on a donkey, holding its tail in both hands while people in the streets mock them.
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13. Poor soldier, who had a wound: This character is the protagonist of the story although
he enters the tale rather late in many versions. A well-known French version, popularized in
English by Andrew Lang, gives the character a first name, Michael. The character is often a
soldier in European versions, but is a cow-boy in the Lang version. In other versions, he is
one of the cobblers who makes the new shoes for the princess(es) or a gardener for the King.
He is rarely someone of rank or power. An exception is the Russian tale, "The Secret Ball,"in
which the hero is a needy nobleman with few financial assets.
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14. Old woman: In the French version provided by Andrew Lang, the helper is "a beautiful
lady, dressed in a robe of cloth of gold" who appears to the hero in a dream. Although she is
usually a woman, no further explanation for the helper is given. In some versions with a
strong Catholic influence, the woman may be the Virgin Mary or another saint. The hero often
shares part of his meager meal with her, a common fairy tale motif for testing the worthiness
of a protagonist.
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15. You must not drink the wine: This prohibition is not given with a teetotaler sensibility,
although such a theme has been interpreted in rare criticisms of the tale. Wine has had a long
history of consumption in Europe and thus appears in many of its fairy tales. In this tale, wine
is used to drug the suitors. Wine itself causes sleepiness and with an added drug (virtually
tasteless in wine) would insure that the suitors sleep through the night without solving the
mystery.

"In the Medieval period, wine was still considered to be a staple of everyday diet. This was
due to the fact that most of Europe lacked a reliable source of drinking water. The 17th
century saw a brief decline of the wine industry. The politics and religious propaganda did
little to promote the consumption of wine for pleasure. Wine also had to face the rival of a
clean and readily available supply of drinking water. Wine was no longer needed as a major
part of the daily diet" (History-of-Wine.com). You can read more about the history of wine at
the History of Wine website at http://www.history-of-wine.com.
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16. You will be invisible: Invisibility cloaks are common items in fairy tales and folklore. In
Andrew Lang's French version, the hero obtains a white flower that makes him invisible when
it is placed in his button-hole.

More recently, invisibility cloaks have appeared in popular literature, such as J.R.R. Tolkien's
Lord of the Rings trilogy and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
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17. A suitor: A suitor is "a man who courts a woman," usually with the intent of proposing
marriage (WordNet).
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18. He was as well received as the others, and royal garments were put upon him: In the
proverb that clothes make the man, the soldier is given nice clothing to replace the rags he
first appears wearing. This is an honor to his quest and for his service. Being allowed to wear
royal clothing is often a distinct honor. In times past, only royalty was allowed to wear certain
items or colors by royal decree.
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19. Ante-chamber: An antechamber is an "entrance or reception room or area" outside
another room (WordNet).
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20. The eldest: With twelve princesses to keep track of, the story rarely focuses on more than
the eldest and youngest daughters, the popular heros of fairy tales. Middle children are often
ignored in fairy tales. The implication in most of the tales is that the queen mother is dead. If
this is the case, the eldest daughter would be the female head of the household and the natural
leader of her sisters.
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21. Tied a sponge under his chin: A messy enterprise, no doubt, but apparently effective. In
the Russian tale, "The Secret Ball," the hero pours the drink into his bed while his head is
turned to the wall. In other versions of the tale, the drink is poured into a potted plant,
conveniently nearby.
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22. The twelve princesses heard that, and laughed: The callousness displayed by the
princesses is often troubling to many critics and readers. Are the princesses really that cruel or
are they under an enchantment? The answer is left for your own interpretation.
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23. Rejoiced at the prospect of the dance: While the princesses may be enchanted, they do
not appear to suffer from the enchantment and/or curse. They enjoy their nightly sojourns,
actively keeping their secret through treachery and deceit. They do not appear to be tired from
their nightly sojourns in which they are active enough to wear out new shoes.
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24. The youngest: In Andrew Lang's French version, the youngest princess receives the
name of Lina, the only princess to be named and the one who ultimately marries the hero, not
the eldest, such as in this version. The youngest appears silly but also more aware of her
surroundings. She is at the back of the line as the youngest and would be most likely to notice
the hero's invisible presence.

With twelve princesses to keep track of, the story rarely focuses on more than the eldest and
youngest daughters, the popular heros of fairy tales. Middle children are often ignored in fairy
tales.
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25. Went to her bed and tapped it: In most versions of the tale, the entrance to the
underworld is hidden beneath a bed, usually that of the eldest sister.
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26. They descended through the opening: Hell has long been seen as underground in the
earth. In Greek mythology, Hades is the underworld dwelling of the dead, ruled by the god
Hades (Lindemans, Pantheon.org).
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27. Avenue of trees: An avenue to trees would be a road with trees bordering each side to
provide shelter and a natural boundary to the road. Avenues of trees are popular in landscapes
on large estates.
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28. Silver: Note that all three of the materials--silver, gold, and diamonds--are precious
materials and limited to wealthier homes, especially during the time period of this tale.

As the journey progresses, each succeeding materials is more precious and valuable than the
next. The three materials faintly echo the passing seasons, signifying the passage of life into
death. The silver is reminiscent of summer sunlight on foliage, the gold of autumn leaves, and
the diamonds of winter's ice on the trees.
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29. I must carry a token away with me: The hero is wise to gather physical evidence of his
visit to this other world. In most versions of the tale, the king refuses to believe the tale until
he sees the evidence. The princesses also deny the story until they are confronted with the
physical evidence gathered by the hero. Today, physical evidence is often required to establish
guilt or innocence in a court of law.
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30. A twig: In Greek mythology, living persons who visit Hades, the underworld, need a
golden bough obtained from the Cumaean Sibyl in order to return safely to the world of the
living (Lindemans, Pantheon.org). Perhaps the tree branch also serves as an unknown token,
allowing the hero to pass in and out of the underworld.
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31. Tree cracked with a loud report: Cracking twigs have become a cliche in modern times
for revealing the presence of someone who wants to remain hidden. Usually the device
reveals the intruder, but this time the princesses appear to believe their eyes and their desires
over the evidence of the sound.

A side note: Mark Twain, the American novelist, wrote a humorous essay, "Fenimore Cooper's
Literary Offenses" (1895), that complained about the abundance of twig cracking in James
Fenimore Cooper's novels. "Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty
frequently was the broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and
worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on
a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a
Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step
on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn't
satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can't do it, go
and borrow one. In fact, the Leatherstocking Series ought to have been called the Broken
Twig Series."
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32. Gold: Gold, as always, is a beautiful and precious metal and was reserved for the
wealthy in past centuries. Gold has often been used for money and jewelry, to represent
wealth and power.

Gold represents virtue, intelligence, superiority, heaven, worldly wealth, idolatry, revealed
truth, marriage, and fruitfulness (Olderr 1986).

One of the most popular modern illustrations of this scene is "The Golden Wood," painted by
Ruth Sanderson. You can see an image of the painting on her website at
www.ruthsanderson.com. Another popular picture book version, Twelve Dancing Princesses,
was illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft.

You can see other illustrations for the tale on the Illustrations of The Twelve Dancing
Princesses page. Some of my favorites are by Kay Nielsen.

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33. Diamonds: Jewels represent wealth and femininity. Diamonds are some of the most
precious stones and of the highest value.
In the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh (650 B.C.), "the hero Gilgamesh has to make his way
through the underworld to the garden of the gods, from which he crosses over the waters of
death; and he too finds that the vines and bushes bear jewels instead of fruit" (Opie 1974,
188). The journey and description is described on Tablet 9 (IX) of the epic. You can read a
translation of the text on the AncientTexts.org site here or a summary of the text on
Washington State University's World Cultures site here.
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34. Great lake: Greek mythology includes the five rivers as the boundary between the world
of the living and the world of the dead (Hades, the underworld, or hell, depending on
interpretation). The five rivers are named (1) Acheron: The River of Woe; (2) Cocytus: The
River of Lamentation; (3) Phlegethon: The River of Fire; (4) Lethe: The River of
Forgetfulness; (5) Styx: The River of Hate. The five rivers together are occasionally regarded
as a lake (Lindemans, Pantheon.org).
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35. Twelve little boats: In a version from the Antilles, an eagle flies the princess across the
lake to the dancing hall. The eagle is surprised by the extra weight of the invisible hero.

In Greek mythology, Charon is the ferryman of the dead. Charon ferries the souls of the
deceased, or shades, across the river Acheron in a boat (Lindemans, Pantheon.org).
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36. Handsome prince: The princesses' dancing partners vary across versions. Sometimes the
princes are described as enchanted (along with the princesses), such as in Andrew Lang's
French version. Sometimes they are not princes at all, but the undead or demons.

Neil Philip briefly discusses the demons that appear in one version from Cape Verde: "The
Cape Verde Islands were a Portuguese territory and this story reveals Portuguese origins by its
mention of Catholic icons such as St. Anthony and the Virgin Mary. The princess, who dances
with 'devils,' clings to pagan ways; for this reason the boy refuses to marry her" (Philip 1997,
72).
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37. Castle: The princesses most often visit a castle, but sometimes the structure is described
as a great hall or similar building.
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38. Joyous music of trumpets: Trumpets are often used to herald a visit, especially a royal
visit.
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39. Kettle-drums: A kettledrum is "a large hemispherical brass or copper percussion


instrument with a drumhead that can be tuned by adjusting the tension on it" (WordNet).
Today they are more commonly called timpani or tympani.
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40. He drank it up: Here the hero drinks the wine to tease the princesses. In other versions
of the tale, such as Andrew Lang's French version, the wine is the source of the princes'
enchantment (perhaps the princesses' enchantment, too). The hero threatens to drink it but is
stopped by the youngest princess who is in love with him.

In Greek mythology, if one eats or drinks while in Hades, she is forever tied to the place. The
most famous example is that of Persephone, the goddess of the underworld, who was
kidnapped by Hades to be his wife. Zeus ordered Hades to return Persephone to her mother
and the world of the living. Before she left, Hades gave her a pomegranate to eat, "thus she
would always be connected to his realm and had to stay there one-third of the year"
(Lindemans, Pantheon.org, Persephone). You can read a version of the Persephone myth on
SurLaLune at Prosperine.
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41. They danced there till three o'clock in the morning: An exact time for the end of the
dancing is not usually provided. In some versions of the tale, the princesses dance until their
shoes are worn out and then sit down for a meal with their dance partners before departing.
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42. Watch the wonderful goings on: One senses that the soldier is also drawn to the beauty
and magical allure of this underground world, visiting it three times before he must either
reveal the secret or die. In Andrew Lang's version, he decides to drink of some wine so he
may stay in the underworld and thus dance with the youngest princess whom he now loves.
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43. I am no longer young, so give me the eldest: In Andrew Lang's French version, the hero
marries the youngest princess. The soldier's desire to marry the eldest daughter is far from
romantic since she is far from sympathetic and even schemes for his death during the tale. In a
version from Cape Verde, the hero refuses to marry the princess at all since she has consorted
happily with demons. At least this hero is not looking for a May-December romance.
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44. Princes were bewitched for as many days as they had danced nights: In most
versions, the princes are seen as victims, too, and sent home after they are disenchanted at the
same time as the princesses. In other versions, such as those with demons, the entrance is
walled up and no one is able to return to or from the underground world ever again.
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Josiane BRU :
T306 - LES SOULIERS USÉS À LA DANSE

AA.TH. : THE DANCED-OUT SHOES (LES SOULIERS USÉS À LA DANSE)

I. LA PRINCESSE AUX SOULIERS USÉS


I A - Une princesse s'absente chaque nuit
I A1 - et use une paire
I A2 - ou plusieurs paires de chaussures
I B - Le roi la donnera en mariage à qui découvrira où elle va
I B1 - le roi charge des soldats de la surveiller
I B2 - des jeunes gens s'offrent à la surveiller pour l'épouser
I B3 - ceux qui échouent sont tués
I B4 - autre
I C - La princesse leur fait prendre une boisson qui endort
II. LE HÉROS
II A - C'est un soldat en congé
II A1 - un soldat de garde
II A2 - un jeune homme volontaire
II A3 - autre
II B - Il rencontre une vieille femme
II B1 - qui lui demande quelque chose
II B2 - il lui donne quelque chose
II C - La vieille femme donne au héros un objet magique
II C1 - des indications
II D - Le héros veille à la porte
II D1 - couche dans une chambre voisine
II D2 - ne boit pas la boisson apportée
II D3 - fait semblant de dormir
III. LA DÉCOUVERTE DU SECRET
III A - La princesse part
III A1 - s'aide d'une baguette magique
III A2 - est portée par un aigle
III A3 - par le diable
III A4 - traverse une ou plusieurs rivières
III B - Elle arrive à un lieu où l'on danse
III B1 - danse avec le diable
III B2 - avec un géant
III B3 - autre
III C - Le héros la suit
III C1 - grâce à l'objet magique
III C2 - prend en route des objets comme justifications
III C3 - rentre le premier et fait semblant de dormir
IV. RAPPORT FAIT AU ROI
IV A - Le héros raconte au roi de qu'a fait sa fille
IV A1 - montre les objets
IV B - Le roi donne sa fille au héros
IV B1 - la tue
IV B2 - récompense le héros

Les souliers usés au bal

Il était une fois douze princesses. Chaque matin, alors que personne ne les avait vu sortir du
palais, on découvrait leurs chaussures de bal usées au pied de leur lit. Le roi leur père voulait
en avoir le coeur net et il promit au jeune homme qui parviendrait à résoudre cette énigme la
main de l'une de ses filles, celle de son choix.

Après que nombre de jeunes gens tous aussi beaux les uns que les autres aient tenté d'y
parvenir sans autre résultat que de perdre leurs têtes, un soldat revenant de guerre pense s'y
essayer. La rencontre avec une vieille femme va lui permettre d'y parvenir. Elle lui donne un
mantelet qui le rendra invisible, lui conseille de ne pas boire le vin qui lui sera offert le soir et
de ne pas se laisser aller au sommeil. Il la remercie en chantant une petite chanson (Hier je fus
à une noce, il me vint deux amoureux) et se rend au palais. Le roi lui dit qu'il disposera de
trois nuits pour trouver la réponse. Au bout de ce temps-là, le soldat devra répondre ou payer
son échec de sa tête.

Le soir venu, il fait mine de boire le vin mais celui-ci gonfle une éponge que le soldat a placée
sous sa chemise. Il joue l'homme épuisé qui a besoin d'une bonne nuit de repos, baille
allègrement, se couche et... "s'endort".

Aussitôt, les princesses revêtent leurs beaux atours. L'aînée frappe dans ses mains: le sol
s'ouvre, son lit disparaît et à cet endroit voilà un grand escalier... Le soldat se lève
promptement, jète sur ses épaules le mantelet et emboîte le pas des douze jeunes filles. La
plus jeune a l'impression que quelqu'un les suit et à plusieurs reprises, elle interpelle son aînée
à ce sujet. Cette dernière ne la prend pas au sérieux. Il constate que les princesses traversent
trois forêts: une de cuivre, une d'argent et une d'or. Elles se rendent ensuite près d'un étang
aussi grand qu'un lac au bord duquel douze princes les attendent dans douze barques. Au
palais illuminé qui se trouve de l'autre côté, elles dansent avec leurs princes jusque tard dans
la nuit et épuisées reviennent dans leur chambre pour se coucher. Chaque fois, le soldat a le
temps de les précéder et quand elles arrivent, il "ronfle" haut et fort.

Trois nuits de suite, les choses se passeront de la même manière. A l'issue de ce temps-là, le
soldat apporte au roi des objets pour étayer ses dires: une brindille de cuivre, une d'argent et la
troisième d'or ainsi qu'une coupe de vin. Il raconte ce qu'il a vu, avec force détails. Les
princesse ne peuvent qu'agréer. Alors, le roi lui offre la main de la fille de son choix et le
soldat qui n'est plus très jeune, accepte l'aînée. Quant aux princes, qui étaient sur le point
d'être délivrés d'un sortilège qui les emprisonnait dans leur palais doré, ils n'ont plus qu'à
attendre autant de nuits qu'ils ont dansé avec les princesses pour que la mauvais sort soit levé.