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Literature / Adalmina's Pearl

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"Adalmina's Pearl" ("Adalmiinan helmi") is a fairy tale by Finnish writer Zacharias Topelius.

Adalmina is the only child of a king and queen and gets gifts from her two Fairy Godmothers. One gives her a pearl with the power to make her more beautiful, more intelligent, and richer by every day. The other promises that if she should ever lose the pearl, and with it all the beauty, wit, and riches, she will gain a pure, loving heart in their place. Adalmina grows up to be spoiled rotten, and being so much smarter, prettier, and richer than anyone else, she becomes an unbelievably proud, vain, selfish, cold-hearted little tyrant, and is generally a completely unbearable pain to everyone but her doting parents.

One day Adalmina grows bored enough to decide she wants to see the world beyond the castle walls, something she is not allowed to do in order to protect her pearl, now permanently set on a crown that magically grows to always fit her perfectly. Adalmina successfully escapes and gets lost in a forest, where she finds a beautiful, clear pond, which reflects her face just perfectly. And there goes her crown. Immediately Adalmina turns into a plain peasant girl, her rich gown into rags, and she forgets everything about herself, wandering dumb deeper into the forest.


An old woman finds her, and out of pity, lets her live with her and herd her goats. Adalmina, now possessing a kind and loving heart, is grateful for what little the old lady can offer her, and is happy to live with her in a humble cottage.

Adalmina's parents of course are terrified to hear about the disappearance, and send out a message that should any prince or nobleman succeed in finding the princess, they will be rewarded with her hand and half of her father's kingdom. One prince, who has previously heard about Adalmina's divine beauty and matchless intelligence, has fallen in love with her from afar and is determined to find her. He travels far and wide, and everyone he meets thinks the rotten princess may as well stay lost. Finally, after years, he finds the crown and realizes finally that he has no interest in the princess anymore. Tired and lost in the woods, he happens at the old goat woman's cottage and stays for a few days before setting off to return the crown to Adalmina's parents.


The king and the queen are overjoyed to learn about the crown, and send out a message for every appropriately old girl in the kingdom to come to test for the crown. As expected, the crown is passed from head to head but fits no one. The prince has now had enough of all of this and says he will only stay until the sun sets, and if the princess is not found by then, return home. Yes, just as the sun is disappearing behind the horizon, the goat herder girl from the cottage shows up on the road to the town. The prince is happy to see the kind and humble girl from the cottage and swears that promised and kingdom or not, should cruel Adalmina ever return, he won't accept her hand but instead will marry the goat herder girl.

In the end, the crown fits the girl, and she transforms back into the Adalmina everyone knew, with her memories and all her beauty, intelligence, and riches restored. Her heart however has permanently thawed, and she falls down on her knees teary-eyed to beg forgiveness for every cruel deed she has ever committed. The people rejoice, and the prince is happy to marry the princess.

This folk tale provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: A good heart is more valuable than anything else. Topelius' version drops some anvils at the end, where the rejoicing people happily sing "Adalmina's pearl is lovely but so much more lovely is her kind and loving heart".
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Deconstructed. Adalmina's great beauty (and vanity), and how people treat her because of it, is one of the reasons she grows up to be so wicked.
  • Blessed with Suck: Adalmiina's parents think that a kind heart is not a gift fit for a princess. The audience might also think that the original three gifts weren't the greatest idea for a girl who would probably end up a spoiled rich thing in any case...
  • Clingy MacGuffin: They attempted to create one to bear the pearl. It worked until it failed.
  • Cool Crown: They don't get much cooler than one with an enchanted pearl in it.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: it's implied that once Adalmina loses her crown and turns plain, poor, and stupid and wanders to the old goat lady's cottage, she learns to be good and caring.
  • Doting Parent: Adalmina's parents see nothing wrong with their little treasure.
  • Fallen Princess: The plot starts with a princess; she falls and regains her status after learning a lesson.
  • Fairy Godmother: Blue and Red Faerie, Adalmina's ethereal godmothers who give her the Plot Coupon.
  • Happily Ever After: Once Adalmina drops the nastiness, she gets her prince.
  • Happily Married: Unlike most of the fairy tale pairings, Adalmina + Prince actually has at least something more to build on than just both being royal and pretty
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Inverted in some versions, the child is hilariously abusive towards everyone around her.
  • Impossible Task: Find this princess who was lost? Ok, easy enough. She's lost her trademark beauty, wealth, and wit? Ok, a bit of a challenge. Does no one know how she looks like these days? Erm. The only device that can confirm her identity - lost? Oh for crying—!
  • It's All About Me: Adalmina generally, but especially how she ignores the fact her train might easily get beheaded for letting her run away.
  • Love Epiphany: The prince tends to get this treatment with the herder girl instead of the more obvious Love at First Sight
  • Nice to the Waiter: In most versions, Adalmina inverts.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: In most illustrations, to make clear Adalmina is a rich, rich princess.
  • Princess for a Day: Inverted. Adalmina the princess spends a few years as a poor herder girl and then returns to the princess business.
  • Rags to Royalty: King Thrushbeard Style.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: Enforced and justified with Adalmina's enchanted pearl crown
  • Rich Bitch: Adalmina, the richest of the rich and the bitchiest of the bitch.
  • Royal Brat: boil Adalmina down to two words and she's a Royal Brat.
  • Rule of Three: Adalmina's initial three blessings.
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: Day by day, Adalmina creeps up the scale.
  • Standard Hero Reward: What Adalmina's parents offer for anyone who finds their daughter.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: If Adalmina isn't it, she will eventually be.