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Andrew Lang (31 March 1844 – 20 July 1912) was a Scottish writer and editor, best known for his numerous anthologies of fairy tales. J. R. R. Tolkien described them in On Fairy-Stories as the best known and best of the fairy tale collections current in England, though criticizing them for some inclusions.

Lang's works are in the public domain and can be read here and in the Project Gutenberg.


Tales collected by Lang that have their own pages:


Examples of tropes in Lang's Fairy Books:

  • An Arm and a Leg: In "The One-Handed Girl", the sister gets her hand hacked off by her own brother when she tries to stop him from cutting her vine down.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness:
    • Double subverted in "The Blue Parrot". The daughter of the swan fairy is shocked that the handsome portrait she had fallen in love with belongs to such a rude man — but they soon discover that he's an impostor. Rescuing the true king finds him both courteous and handsome. The illustrations play it straight for Hermosa, the swan fairy's daughter, and Riquette, Ismenor's daughter. Hermosa is depicted as beautiful, while Riquette is depicted as ugly and apelike.
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    • Similarly in "The Colony of Cats" — the older cats rebuke the kittens, saying that all the servants can't be pretty, but Peppina proves to be as bad as she is ugly, where Lizina was pretty and good.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In "The Stonecutter", a discontent stonecutter makes contact with the spirit of the mountain from whom he cuts stone. The spirit offers him wishes which the stonecutter uses to change his lot in life. But with each new life he finds himself seeing someone more powerful and coveting that power. It culminates in him wishing he was the mountain, thinking that nothing can topple a mountain. After granting this wish, the spirit leaves since this last wish essentially caused the ex-stonecutter to replace him as the mountain's spirit. The new mountain spirit is satisfied with his wish at first, until he feels another stonecutter chipping away at the mountain...
  • Cool Horse: In "Dapplegrim", the eponymous horse is so massive that the protagonist can barely climb on him even when he lies down, and his coat so gleaming that sunbeams reflect off it like a mirror. All the protagonist's achievements are enabled by Dapplegrim and his Undying Loyalty, and it's a plot point that his equal can only be found in hell.
  • Dragon Rider: In "Heart of Ice", Fairy Gorgonzola, who travels on dragonback, is perhaps one of the earliest examples.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?:
    • In "Jesper Who Herded the Hares", the king invented more tasks for Jesper to avoid fulfilling his promise to marry him to his daughter, stopping only when Jesper has some dirt on him.
    • Similarly, in "The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate", the King attempts to murder a boy who is destined to marry his daughter.
    • In "The Grateful Beasts", the king orders Ferko to perform three tasks at the incitement of his brothers; his own daughter the princess argues with him until he imprisons her in a tower. However, the last task is to summon all the wolves in the kingdom, the wolves then proceed to kill all the court, and Ferko frees the princess, marries her, and becomes king.
  • Engagement Challenge: In Prince Prigio, the king has promised his niece's hand in marriage and the kingdom to whoever brought him the head of a monster. The monster is killed by his rather annoying son Prigio, but the head is brought by a servant. Prigio persuades the king that obeying the letter of his promise would infringe on the right of royalty to say other than what they mean. However, being in love with another woman, he refuses to marry his cousin — who had been engaged to and in love with his dead brother but finds being refused rather insulting. Fortunately, Prigio revives his younger brothers, and so they agree to let him marry his love and the niece to marry his brother.
  • I Gave My Word: In "The False Prince And The True", a young man promises an old woman that he will marry her if she saves his life. She does.
    "You swore to marry her if she saved your life, and, come what may, you must fulfill your promise."
  • King Incognito: In Sicilian fairy tale "Paperarello", the title character is a king who finds work as a goose-boy in another kingdom. Paperarello (derived from Italian papera meaning "gosling") is the nickname given to him.
  • Noble Fugitive:
    • In "The Bear", the princess runs away from home because her overprotective father will not allow her to leave the palace.
    • In "The One-Handed Girl" (link and link), the heroine gets married to a prince, but she is forced to go into exile because of her brother's wicked lies.
  • Rule of Three:
    • In "The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen", the king has three sons.
    • In "The Death Of Koschei The Deathless", Prince Ivan has three sisters who are courted by three wizard princes.
  • Thrown Down a Well:
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting:
    • In "The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen", the witches transfom into animals to chase the thief.
    • In "The Death Of Koschei The Deathless", Prince Ivan's brothers-in-law can turn into birds of prey.
  • Wicked Stepmother:
    • In "The Black Thief and the Knight of the Glen", the three brothers' stepmother forces them to steal a horse.
    • In "Morozko", Marfa's stepmother attempts to murder her.
  • Wicked Witch: In "The Wonderful Birch", an evil witch turns the heroine's mother into a sheep and uses shapeshifting to take her place; she has the sheep killed and feeds it to the woman's husband, although the daughter does not eat and manages to bury the bones. Then she does everything in Cinderella and then, after the wedding, enchants her stepdaughter into the form of a reindeer after the wedding and puts her own daughter in her place.
  • Youngest Child Wins:
    • In "Tritill, Litill, and the Birds," the two older brothers are rude to two beggars and a flock of birds and withhold their bread from them. They take shelter in an ogress' cave. The ogress forces them to clean her cave. When they fail, the ogress kills them. The youngest brother shares his food with the beggars and the birds, who later help him clean the ogress' cave. The youngest brother is spared and is rewarded with the lost princess.
    • An example of an older stepchild trumping this trope appears in the French fairy tale "Alphege, or the Green Monkey." Alphege, the son of the king's first wife, is the protagonist. When Alphege disappears, his stepmother sets up her son as the king. Subverted, though, in that the younger brother is not evil and willingly gives up his throne when Alphege returns.
    • In "How the Dragon was Tricked" features two brothers. The younger brother is the protagonist and wins over the king's daughter, while the older brother gets nothing.
    • In "The Punishment of the Fairy Gangana" King Petaldo and Queen Gillette's seven children are kidnapped by Gangana and taken to the island of Bambini. The six older children misbehave, while Cadichon, the youngest, remains obedient. Cadichon is the one who becomes his father's heir after the children are rescued.
    • In "The Daughter of Buk Ettemsuch," a couple leaves their seven daughters with provisions for three years. The father tells the girls to never open the door. One day, the oldest daughter announces that she wants to go to the market. The youngest daughter warns her that this violates their parents' warning. The six older sisters attack the youngest daughter. Turns out the youngest daughter was right — a witch breaks into the girls' house after the sisters buy vegetables from the market. The witch eats the six older sisters — only the youngest one escapes.
    • "The Three Princes and Their Beasts," is a complete aversion: it's the eldest brother who wins the princess, and it's the middle brother who defeats the witch after the eldest and the youngest have failed.
    • Subverted in "Prince Prigio", where the title prince is the oldest, doesn't believe in fairy tales and argues that his younger brother should be sent off before him.


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