Obscure fairytales: The girl who pretended to be a boy (A Transgender fairytale)

This is a transgender fairytale. I am not making this up. I really wish this was more well known. The story is called ‘The girl who pretended to be a boy.’ It’s old, obviously and rather sexist, unfortunately.

It’s strikingly similar to Mulan, so for many years I thought it was a Japanische Märchen (Fairytales from Japan, translated to German) but it’s actually a Romanian story (Contes Roumains as translated to the french) which makes more sense when you break it down. It’s unmistakably a fairytale, as it has the common themes of three siblings with the youngest being the hero, talking animals, damsels in distress, magic, of course, and, the hero being sent on various quests.

In the story, there is a mighty emperor who conquers the lands around him to the point NOBODY likes him. As he takes over the lands, he adds insult to injury by demanding the kings he overthrows to hand over their sons to be slaves servants for 10 years. The last kingdom he conquered has a good king who has no sons, only three daughters. Each one sets out to offer her service to the new emperor to serve in honor of her father. The first two are very prideful and make a big show of getting a good horse and good armor and money and fine food and the whole 9 but they don’t get very far. (They never do)

Enter Fet-Fruners, the brave youngest, our hero. I want to refrain from calling Fet-Fruners a specific gender, as our hero is  in flux. In the text, mostly referred to as ‘she’ but I’m not as sure.

Anyway, Fet-Fruners goes to the stables and looks all the horses over carefully, before coming to the horse Fet-Fruners father rode when he was a warrior. The horse (naturally) can talk and is known through out the kingdom to give good advice. So our hero decides to take him on the quest. Thus, the pair set off on a journey. Fet-Fruners, unlike her sisters, left home with boys clothes on.

Fet-Fruners comes to a large bridge and face to face with a giant wolf. Fet-Fruners charges and the wolf backs down, then on another bridge, comes across a large lion. Once again they charge and the lion backs down. On the third bridge (Always in threes) a great dragon/hydra thing stands in the way. Still, Fet-Fruners and the horse charge. Fet-Fruners cuts off the dragons head and poof! It turns into her father who is a jerk. He tells his youngest that this was a test to make sure that Fet-Fruners was truly ready and he was now sure of it.

Down along the road, Fet-Fruners and the horse travel happily along when they find two beings called genius (stop laughing) each offers Fet-Fruners a great gift if Fet-Fruners helps defeat the other. By killing one and helping the other, Fet-Fruners wins a horse, the little brother of the one Fet-Fruners is riding now. The genius takes Fet-Fruners home to get the horse, but his mother suspects he brought home a woman, not a man. More sexism ensues as they try to prove Fet-Fruners gender. She tricks them into thinking she’s a boy (or he proves he’s not a girl, depending on how you look at it) and goes on her way with the new horse. While the old horse heads back home.

Fet-Fruners continues on to the palace of the mighty emperor. On the way, finds a thick lock of hair and decides to keep it….

…This is less creepy in fairytales, somehow. It comes back into the story later or I wouldn’t bother mentioning it.

Once at the court, the other pages are exceptionally friendly to the ‘new page’ Fet-Fruners. The emperor has a huge celebration coming up and its discovered (more or less by accident) that Fet-Fruners is a better cook than the royal kitcheners. The night before the great feast, the royal cook gets incredibly drunk. The others freak out and beg Fet-Fruners to help, as no one can cook as well.

The feast is done and the emperor declares it the best food he ever had. The next day, the king calls for the head cook,who took credit for the feast (an ongoing theme in this fairytale, and quite a few others.) and demands his breakfast be just as good. The cook admits the truth and Fet-Fruners becomes the kings favorite. This makes the other princes jealous and they start some rumors about Fet-Fruners, but most run aground because the king knows what kind of personality Fet-Fruners has. Finally the princes-turned-servants decide to get rid of Fet-Fruners with a difficult task. Remember the lock of hair that was picked up like a serial killer trophy? It belongs to a divine being known as Iliane. The emperor immediately insists Fet-Fruners kidnap Iliane or lose ‘his’ head.

With no other choice, Fet-Fruners goes off to retrieve Iliane, who has already been kidnapped. (Damsel in distress. You could seriously make a drinking game from this) Fet-Fruners dresses up as a merchant and pretends to be selling lots of beautiful things from his ships. Fet-Fruners lures Iliane to the cargo hold and sails off with her in the ship. They sail with no real adventure until the kidnappers mother returns to rekidnap Iliane (I’m trying to feel bad for her. I really am. *snorts*) Fet-Fruners throws three things to stop the pursuit and gets back safe after all.

Iliane is not taking the second kidnapping well though, as she doesn’t want to marry the emperor. She sets three hard and life threatening tasks, all of which the emperor hands over to Fet-Fruners. Naturally, Fet-Fruners is victorious in all three. It’s notable to mention she asks for some weird magic horses (nobody sing the my little pony theme….) and some kind of holy water at a specific church where the hermit who guards it knows magic.

Fet-Fruners gets the horses who only give a little bit of a fight, only worth mentioning because they breathe fire later in the story

In the temple, Fet-Fruners gets the water, but the hermit notices on the escape that the water is gone and places a spell to basically gender-swap the thief.

But punishments are things about which people do not always agree, and when the princess suddenly felt she was really the man she had pretended to be, she was delighted, and if the hermit had only been within reach she would have thanked him from her heart.

Exact quote. Exact quote. Seriously it really does say that.

The emperor is super pleased with Fet-Fruners and declares him the heir to his throne (unless he as a son of his own) then goes to celebrate the fulfilled all the requirements Iliane gave to consent to marriage.

Chalk this up as ‘Things Iliane is not having’ but she pretends so as not to get her head chopped off.

The magic-is-not-so-friendly ponies fry the hell out of the evil emperor, thus making Fet-Fruners the emperor. Fet-Fruners and Iliane get married and he lives happily ever after.

As a man.

like a boss

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