A Prince Who is a Beast: The Search for the Lost Husband in Fairy Tales

FairyTalez.com

Chances are, you’ve probably read fairy tale or folk tale that is known as type “The Search for the Lost Husband,” and may not even know it. For example, the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast relates to this type. What does it mean if a tale is classified “The Search for the Lost Husband”?

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"The lad in the bear skin and the King of Arabia's daughter." Illustration by Kay Nielsen, published in East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the Norse Illustrated by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe (1914), George Duran Company.“The lad in the bear skin and the King of Arabia’s daughter.” Illustration by Kay Nielsen, published in East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the Norse Illustrated by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe (1914), George Duran Company.

You’ve probably read a fairy tale or folk tale that is known as type “The Search for the Lost Husband.” For example, the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast relates to this type of story. What does it mean if a tale is classified “The Search for the Lost Husband”?

The Aarne-Thompson Classification System classifies folk tale types or fairy tales using the motifs or themes of the story. Stories that labeled type 400 to 459 are about “Supernatural or enchanted relatives,” and 425A is the “Search for the Lost Husband”; 425C refers to the Beauty and the Beast theme. We previously shared the history of Beauty and the Beast, along with other 425C stories, so we thought we’d dive more into the Search for the Lost Husband, fairy tales that are type 425A.

"Are you afraid?" Illustration by Frederick Richardson, published in East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon, with Other Norwegian Folk Tales by Peter Christen Ambjørnsen, Jørgen Engebretsen Moe and Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen (1912), Row, Peterson and Company.

“Are you afraid?” Illustration by Frederick Richardson, published in East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon, with Other Norwegian Folk Tales by Peter Christen Ambjørnsen, Jørgen Engebretsen Moe and Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen (1912), Row, Peterson and Company.

A great White Bear waits outside. He has faithfully promised to make us all rich if he can but have our youngest daughter.

Characteristics of Type 425A Fairy Tales 

As you read various 425A stories, you’ll likely notice similarities throughout multiple fairy tales and folk tales.

  • The motif of three is often used in these fairy tales and folk tales, such as with three daughters, three days/nights, three questions, three objects, etc. (Read our blog post on the Power of Three: Why Fairy Tales Often Feature a Triple for more on the use of three)
  • The fairy tales typically feature an enchanted man who has become an animal
  • A daughter is required to or is asked to marry the “beast”
  • The husband may appear to be a man at night or when he gets to his home
  • Once at the castle or beast’s home, the bride is treated lavishly but is homesick
  • The bride may go home to her family, but is told to not stay beyond a certain number of days
  • The heroine goes on the quest for her husband after he disappears
  • The bride may receive magical objects to help her return home as well as assist in her quest for the husband
  • The fairy tale or folk tale may feature an appearance by the winds, sun or moon
  • The enchantment over the husband is broken when the bride finds him or perform certain tasks

The Enchanted Pig

The Enchanted Pig is a Romanian fairy tale about a king’s daughter who is fated to marry a “pig from the North.” She doesn’t want to, however, her father convinces her the pig must be under a magic spell, and she agrees, then heads to his castle to be his bride. This fairy tale is a 26 minute Intermediate read and was published by Andrew Lang in the The Red Fairy Book.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

This is one of the more popular fairy tales of this type, and comes to us from Norway. It’s a 25 minute Intermediate read. Here the bride is a daughter of a peasant, and marries the bear in exchange for her father gaining riches. East of the Sun and West of the Moon was authored by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe for their collection, Norske folkeeventyr.

The Enchanted Snake

In the Italian fairy tale The Enchanted Snake, a snake is raised by a woman who longs for a child. After the snake grows up, he wishes to marry a princess. The story was authored by Giambattista Basile for his collection The Pentamerone, and is a 17-minute Intermediate read. 

A Sprig of Rosemary

A Sprig of Rosemary is an Intermediate Spanish fairy tale published by Andrew Lang in the Pink Fairy Book and may be read in 11 minutes. This fairy tale is unusual compared to other stories that are type 425A, because the husband is a magician who can change his shape; his animal form isn’t the result of an enchantment.

The Brown Bear of Norway

A 19-minute Intermediate tale, The Brown Bear of Norway is an Irish fairy tale originally published by author Patrick Kennedy in 1866. The story was later collected by Andrew Lang, who shared it in The Lilac Fairy Book. 

The Tale of the Hoodie

A bear or beast isn’t the only enchanted form that the prince may have in these types of fairy tales. In The Tale of the Hoodie by John Francis Campbell, the prince is a hoodie, also known as a hooded crow. The Easy fairy tale can be read in 7 minutes and features a twist from other type 425A fairy tales, as the bride is allowed to choose whether the crow will be a man by day or by night.

"She was lifted on his back and away they went." Illustration by John Batten published in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs (1894), David Nutt.

“She was lifted on his back and away they went.” Illustration by John Batten published in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs (1894), David Nutt.

The Black Bull of Norroway

Like in East of the Sun and West of the Moon, here the husband is a giant animal upon which the bride can ride. A 9-minute read, The Black Bull of Norroway features a large bull who gets separated from his bride when she is left in a valley of glass. This Scottish fairy tale was re-published by Joseph Jacobs and is an Intermediate read.

King Valemon, The White Bear

White-Bear-King-Valemon or King Valemon, The White Bear comes to us from the Tales of the Fjeld: A Second Series of Popular Tales from the Norse. This fairy tale has traces of East of the Sun, West of the Moon and is an 17-minute Intermediate read. 

The Daughter of the Skies

The Daughter of the Skies by J.F. Campbell is a 5 minute, Easy read which comes from Scotland. This folk tale features the husband as a dog, however, he goes to the skies, so the author notes he may be a “Gaelic deity.” 

Fairytalez.com has plenty of fairy tales and folk tales of animal bridegrooms, lost husbands, and of course, daughters who marry kings or princes. Be sure you read the stories below, as well as all of our other enchanting fairy tales and folk tales!

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

The Enchanted Snake

The Daughter of the Skies

King Valemon, The White Bear

A Sprig of Rosemary

The Black Bull of Norroway

The Tale of the Hoodie

Beauty and the Beast

 

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