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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...
  • Child Marriage Veto: In "Don Giovanni de la Fortuna", the king promises marry Don Giovanni to one of his daughters. The older absolutely refuses, but the youngest agrees.
  • 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.
  • Curse: In "The False Prince and the True", the old woman proves to be under a curse. She is actually younger than the young prince who married her.
  • 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.
    • In "The Three Princes and their Beasts,", the prince gets tokens from the princess.
    • In "The Three Dogs," the king made the same promise; the hero killed the dragon and promised to return within a year to marry her, but a coachman made her promise to say that he had killed the dragon. The hero proved himself with his dogs and the teeth of the dragon.
    • In "Paperarello," the king offers his daughter's hand to his goose-boy Paperarello if he can bake enough bread for his army (if not, his head will be cut off). Paperarello manages to complete the task, but the princess refuses to marry a goose-boy. It is not until after Paperarello wins three battles for the king while in disguise and later reveals that he is a king himself that the princess falls in love with him. Unfortunately for her, Paperarello is already married to a fairy, and he politely refuses the princess.
    • In "The Frog," the old woman tells her sons to test their brides with flax.
      Do as you like, but see that you choose good housewives, who will look carefully after your affairs; and, to make certain of this, take with you these three skeins of flax, and give it to them to spin. Whoever spins the best will be my favourite daughter-in-law.'
  • Evil Matriarch: In "Paperarello", the main character's mother conspires to get rid of her own son.
  • Garden Garment: In "The Flower Queen's Daughter", the title character wears a dress woven out of flowers.
  • Ghost Writer: Although Andrew Lang edited the Color Fairy Book series and wrote prefaces for each volume, the bulk of the translating and rewriting work on the stories was done by his wife Leonora. She eventually took over the editing work as well, credited simply as "Mrs. Lang".
  • 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.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: In "The Golden Crab", the king tries to have The Tourney to substitute a bridegroom for the crab his daughter married. Three times the crab-husband shows up in human guise to fight.
  • Liminal Time: In "The Wonderful Birch" (link), the heroine is particularly vulnerable to an abduction and substitution when she gives birth and finds herself at the state between childlessness and maternity.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: In "The Enchanted Snake", the king promises the heroine she can marry the prince if only she saves him. Recovered, the prince nevertheless refuses because he has promised himself elsewhere; the heroine, delighted, reveals that she is that woman.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: In "The Five Wise Words of the Guru", the protagonist encounters a giant who asks him what he thinks of his beautiful wife. The protagonist's life is spared, and he wins a favor from the giant because he is the first hapless traveler not to try to point out that the wife is a skeleton.
  • 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.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different:
    • In "The Bird Grip", the youngest prince comes upon a house haunted by a ghost whom the owner had killed because he could not pay for his meals. Since the host also refused to pay for the funeral, the dead man's ghost haunted the inn every night. The prince pays off the dead man's debts so he can be buried, and later he is aided by a fox who he is actually the dead man's grateful ghost.
    • In "The Wonderful Birch", the main character's dead mother protects her daughter from the latter's stepmother.
  • 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.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man:
    • In "The Golden Mermaid", the mermaid refuses to leave the body of the murdered youngest son, who actually carried out the quest, even when his older brothers threaten her.
    • In "The Bird Grip", the prince who brings back the bird for his father also brings back a princess; when his brothers try to kill him and threaten her, she does not stop grieving until the prince returns alive.
  • 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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