Follow TV Tropes


Literature / King Thrushbeard

Go To
Illustration by Arthur Rackham

"King Thrushbeard" (König Drosselbart) is a fairy tale published by The Brothers Grimm in in Children's and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen).

A king has a daughter who is so beautiful that kings and princes come from miles around in hopes of winning her hand in marriage. But although she is beautiful, she is also proud and arrogant, and constantly insults and rejects her suitors. She is particularly cruel to one handsome young king, calling him "King Thrushbeard" because of his long thick beard (or in some versions, a long and pointy chin). Finally, her father loses patience with his rude daughter and declares that since she has rejected every man who has come to court her, she will be married to the first beggar who comes to the gate.

The next day, a clean-shaven minstrel arrives at the palace, and the king is so pleased with his music that he marries the man to his daughter. The princess is very angry, but has no choice in the matter. As she and her new husband depart, they pass by lands and properties that belong to the king the princess dubbed "King Thrushbeard". She starts to regret rejecting him, even more so when her new home turns out to be nothing more than a wooden shack.

Now forced to work, the princess proves to be completely incompetent at household tasks, weaving, and spinning. She has some success for a time selling pottery, but that comes to an end when a drunken soldier smashes her stall. Finally, she is forced to work as a scullery-maid in the palace of King Thrushbeard. The one silver lining is that her new position enables her to take home scraps of food for herself and her husband to eat.

One day, a great party is held to celebrate the king's engagement, and the princess watches from behind a curtain until she is discovered by none other than King Thrushbeard himself. Despite her attempts to escape, he pulls her onto the dance floor and all the food she had hidden in her apron spills out. Completely and utterly embarrassed, she tries to flee but is stopped by the king, who reveals that he is also the beggar she married and the soldier who destroyed her stall. Her ordeal was both meant to cure her proud ways and to punish her for her haughtiness. With that, they marry and live happily ever after.

It can be read here.

It was adapted to webcomic by Erstwhile: here.

"King Thrushbeard" contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Break the Haughty: The haughty princess is disowned by her father and forced to live as a poor peasant to beat her arrogance out of her and teach her to be humble.
  • Child Marriage Veto: The princess keeps doing this until her father loses patience with her.
  • Fallen Princess: The princess herself.
  • Get Out!: After he has married his daughter to the beggar, his father tells her to get out of his palace.
  • King Incognito: The king poses as a beggar who marries the princess.
  • Meaningful Name: King Thrushbeard is so named because he has a beard that looks like a thrush's beak.
  • No Name Given: The only character who has a name is King Thrushbeard, and even then he's a case of Only Known by Their Nickname.
  • Proud Beauty: The princess until her ordeal.
  • Rags to Royalty: After being disowned, the princess lived as a commoner until her husband revealed his real identity.
  • Royal Brat: The princess starts out as one.
  • Rule of Three: As walking towards her new home, the princess repeats three times:
    "Oh, I am a miserable thing;
    If only I'd taken the Thrushbeard King."
  • Scullery Maid: After failing at weaving, spinning and selling pottery, the princess is given a job as a scullery maid in Thrushbeard's palace.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The beggar who comes to the palace is extremely reluctant to be saddled with a royal wife, since he knows she can't do any hard labor.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: This is expected of the princess, but she fails at it because of her royal upbringing. It's mentioned constantly that she cannot weave cloth or spin thread (a common woman's textile-related jobs) because it makes her hands bleed, so her husband immediately stops her and bemoans how useless and delicate his new wife is.