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Literature / Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree

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"Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree" is a Scottish Fairy Tale collected by Joseph Jacobs. The story is a variation on Snow White.

Gold-Tree is the beautiful daughter of an unnamed king and his wife, Silver-Tree. One fateful day, Silver-Tree meets a magical fish, who tells her that Gold-Tree is lovelier than she is. Offended, the queen vows to kill Gold-Tree. One day, she lies to her husband, claiming to be very ill, and that the only cure is if she eats Gold-Tree's liver and heart. Fortunately, the prince from a faraway land recently proposed to Gold-Tree, and so the king sends them off to his country, tricking the queen with the heart and liver of an animal.

One year later, Silver-Tree consults the fish again, who informs her that Gold-Tree is still alive in her new husband's country, and so the queen persuades the king to let her visit her daughter. Upon learning that her mother is visiting, Gold-Tree's servants lock her away for her own safety. However, the queen manages to sneak a poisoned thorn through the keyhole and into Gold-Tree's finger.


When the prince comes back, he's horrified to see his wife dead, but she is too lovely for him to bury. So Gold-Tree's body remains in that room. Time goes on and he marries a new woman, but warns her not to enter that particular room. Her curiosity eventually gets the better of her and she discovers Gold-Tree, as well as the thorn in her finger. The new bride removes it, bringing Gold-Tree back to life.

One year later, Silver-Tree learns about this from the fish and sets out to kill Gold-Tree again, but this time, Gold-Tree, her husband, and her husband's wife are prepared. When Silver-Tree offers her daughter a poisoned drink, the second wife tells Silver-Tree to take the first sip, claiming it to be their land's custom. As the queen raises the cup to her lips, the second wife forces Silver-Tree to actually swallow the potion. Silver-Tree is killed, and Gold-Tree, her husband, and her husband's other wife live Happily Ever After.


It can be read in the SurLaLune site and the Project Gutenberg.

"Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree" contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Bi: The second princess revives Gold-Tree from her faux death, a role typically associated with a comatose heroine's lover, and later on kills Silver-Tree to protect her. Neither of them has any problems with being married to the same man either.
  • Damsel in Distress: Gold-Tree.
  • Death Faked for You: To protect his daughter, the king sends her away with her new husband and offers Silver-Tree a goat's internal organs.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Gold-Tree is more Genre Savvy than most princesses in these stories, locking herself in her room when Silver-Tree visits. Still, her mother persuades her to extend her finger through the keyhole on the pretense that she wants to kiss it, but in fact is just looking for an opening to use the poisoned thorn.
  • Evil Matriarch: Silver-Tree is notably not a Wicked Stepmother, but Gold-Tree's biological parent.
  • Fairest of Them All: Gold-Tree, to the anger of Silver-Tree.
  • Faux Death: Gold-Tree is revived when the second wife removes the poisoned thorn, as in most Snow White-type stories.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Subverted. The prince's second wife is told not to enter the room, but when she does, she actually saves the day.
  • Good Is Not Soft: The second wife murders Silver-Tree when she targets Gold-Tree a third time. From there, the tale just laconically describes Silver-Tree's burial, and the heroes head forth into their Happily Ever After.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Near the end of the story, Silver-Tree dies when she's made to drink the poison she intended to kill Gold-Tree with.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Silver-Tree's first ploy to kill her daughter is to request that Gold-Tree's heart and liver be cooked for her.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When she brings back Gold-Tree and sees how overjoyed her husband is to have her back, the second princess offers to leave, as Gold-Tree is the first wife. However, the prince makes a counter-offer to have both of them as his wives, an arrangement they consent to.
  • Marry Them All: The two princesses and prince end up married to each other, averting the typical Love Triangle.
  • Name and Name
  • No Name Given: The two title characters are the only named characters in the story.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Removing the thorn instantly saves Gold-Tree, who's implied to have been "dead" for several months.
  • Offing the Offspring: Silver-Tree's Evil Plan. It doesn't work.
  • Parental Neglect: Zig-zagged. On the one hand, the king sends Gold-Tree away for her safety when Silver-Tree first requests for the princess' internal organs. However, he later has no problem with letting the queen travel to visit Gold-Tree twice.
  • Polyamory: The prince happily calls both princesses his wives, and the wives clearly care for each other at the very least. Nobody seems to have a problem with this or treat it as anything out of the ordinary.
  • Princess Classic: Gold-Tree.
  • Resurrected Romance: Gold-Tree and her husband pick things up right where they left off after the spell is broken.
  • Replacement Goldfish: The second bride to the prince. Notably, after she saves Gold-Tree, the second wife assumes her husband wants to be with her now, but he assures her that he loves both of them.
  • Self-Poisoning Gambit: The second bride defeats Silver-Tree by tricking her into trying to pretend to drink the poison, then forcing her to drink it for real.
  • Talking Animal: The magical fish.
  • What Happened to the Talking Fish?