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Literature: Tatterhood
Once on a time there was a king and a queen who had no children, and that gave the queen much grief; she scarce had one happy hour. She was always bewailing and bemoaning herself, and saying how dull and lonesome it was in the palace.
"If we had children there'd be life enough," she said.

"Tatterhood" is a fairy tale from Norway collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe. In it, a beggar woman tells a queen that she will have children if she eats one of two flowers, but warns her that, since one is pretty and one is ugly, to ONLY eat the pretty one. The Queen eats the ugly one as well. Then she gives birth to two daughters, one of whom is beautiful and good, and the other one a little... different.

Of course, the girl, named Tatterhood for her ragged clothes (she also carries a wooden ladle and rides on a goat), has her redeeming qualities—she's a stone-cold Badass princess who takes the law into her own hands where goblins and witches are concerned, even running outside during their terrifying celebration and bopping them on the head with her ladle. Her maids are less brave, though, and a witch turns the beautiful princess into a calf. Tatterhood, deciding that this just won't do, takes her sister on a long sea-voyage to break the spell, eventually breaking into the witches' castle and fighting them all off in order to turn her sister back into a human.

After this, the sisters travel at sea for a while, until they come to a faraway kingdom where the beautiful princess ends up marrying a forty-year-old king while Tatterhood marries his son. When Tatterhood marries, however, a final surprise awaits...

Can be read online here. Also, remade by Opals Free Stories. Not related to the tale Tattercoats. Compare to The Cat on the Dovrefell for the celebration she interrupts and Kate Crackernuts for the transformation of her sister.

"Tatterhood" contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Tatterhood. And how. Even when only "half grown up" she takes on an unknown number of trolls and witches and beats them easily.
  • Badass: Tatterhood
  • Baleful Polymorph: A variant of this happens to the beautiful sister when a witch gives her the head of a calf.
  • Beautiful All Along: A variant happens at the end when Tatterhood simply turns herself beautiful in what reads as a giant Take That to the moping prince. You sort of get the feeling that she could have made herself beautiful at any time, but just chose to stay ugly for the sheer hell of it.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted, as the heroine of the story is ugly as all get-out and has a definite attitude, but isn't a bad person. Of course, she turns out to have the ability to make herself beautiful at will, so...
  • Big Sister Instinct: Tatterhood is the older twin, and she is incredibly protective of her sister.
  • Brainless Beauty: The beautiful sister might be considered this; she's so beautiful that everyone falls in love with her, but is essentially useless; her only function in the story is to be the Distressed Damsel and be the one everyone fawns over.
  • Cool Horse / Horse of a Different Color: Tatterhood's riding goat, who is just as Badass as she is and even turns into an actual, and very beautiful, horse at the end.
  • Cowboy Cop: Tatterhood is a female version of this.
  • Distressed Damsel: The beautiful sister.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: The whole thing is about twin princesses.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: A very mild version with the Queen in this story; while she never plots to kill anyone, she does show a rather... callous philosophy when it comes to motherhood. One of her mentioned reasons for wanting children is so she'll have someone to scold, and when Tatterhood is born, she's repulsed at her ugliness and tries to keep her locked up so she won't have to see her.
  • May-December Romance: Between Tatterhood's sister and the king. We don't know exactly how old she is when she marries him, given that it's never stated how long the sisters were at sea, but given that he has a son of marrying age, he's probably old enough to be her father.
    • At least one version of the story neatly sidesteps the Values Dissonance by simply giving the king two sons. The beautiful sister marries the older prince, while Tatterhood marries the younger.
  • Nameless Narrative: Not surprisingly, since it is a fairytale, only Tatterhood is ever referred to by name (and "Tatterhood" sounds more like a nickname anyway) — everyone else, including her twin, is nameless.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Tatterhood and her beautiful twin sister, of course. The sister is a beautiful but helpless Distressed Damsel; Tatterhood is an ugly Action Girl. The sisters are the best of friends, though, and virtually unseparable all throughout the story.
  • Trickster Archetype: Tatterhood may qualify — for most of the story she doesn't act like it, but come the ending...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In the beginning of the story, the childless Queen adopts a little girl, and it's her unlikely friendship with the beggar woman's daughter that kicks off the real plot. After Tatterhood and her sister are born, though, the girl is never mentioned again.
    • Several versions and retellings leave out the adopted child altogether; they either have the Queen meet the beggar woman by chance or actively seeking her out to ask advice. One version has the little girl not as the Queen's adopted daughter but her niece who it just staying with her aunt for a brief visit, and so presumably she went back home to her parents.


TattercoatsFairy TaleThe Three Aunts
Soria Moria CastleNon-English LiteratureTerje Vigen

alternative title(s): Tatterhood
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