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Literature / The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird

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Young princess and princes, being watched over by their foster mother

The Dancing Water, the Singing Apple, and the Speaking Bird is an Italian Fairy Tale collected by Thomas Crane.

A king wanders the streets at night. He hears three sisters talking:

The oldest said: "If I were the wife of the royal butler, I would give the whole court to drink out of one glass of water, and there would be some left." The second said: "If I were the wife of the keeper of the royal wardrobe, with one piece of cloth I would clothe all the attendants, and have some left." The youngest said: "Were I the king's wife, I would bear him three children: two sons with apples in their hands, and a daughter with a star on her brow."

He arranges the marriages and the older sisters do as they said. They hate the youngest because she is queen. They put puppies in place of the wonder children when they were born, and exposed the babies. Three fairies saw the children and gave them a deer who would raise them, a purse full of money, and a ring that changes color when one is in danger. When they were grown, the fairy told them to go into the city. As soon as they get a house, the sisters realize that these are the wonder children, who could reveal what they had done. They try to dispose of them with Impossible Tasks. The oldest brother fetches the Dancing Water and the Singing Apple, but when sent after the Speaking Bird, it reveals his past and startles him into speaking, which turns him to stone. The next brother did the same. Finally, their sister managed to do it and save all the people who had turned to stone.


The king comes to see these marvelous young men and woman. The Speaking Bird reveals the truth and then, at the king's order, describes how the sisters and the nurse who aided them were to be executed. The king, his wife, and the children were all reconciled.

Full text here.

Compare with "The One-Handed Girl".

Tropes included

  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The Queen's sisters, who took away her children out of jealousy.
  • Distressed Dude: After being abandoned as infants and being raised by fairies and a deer, the two brothers are turned to stone. Their sister must follow them to restore them.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: The queen's sisters try to murder their infant nephews and niece, and the queen herself is put into a treadmill as a slave for years.
  • Forbidden Fruit: Do not talk to the bird. Whatever it says.
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  • Green-Eyed Monster: The older sisters envy the youngest because she married the king.
  • Malicious Slander: When the queen gives birth to three Wonder Children, her sisters steal them and tell her husband that she gave birth to three puppies. He puts her in a treadmill as punishment for not having the children as she claimed she would.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: The king's children are abandoned in an attempt to murder them, and they grow up in ignorance of their birth, until a magic bird informs the king and children of the truth.
  • Parental Substitute: The deer. Technically, Raised by Wolves, but they don't seem to have any trouble. Maybe the fairies did something.
  • Rags to Royalty: The queen rises from impoverished to rich; her children are thrown from their position but rise back to it.
  • Taken for Granite: When the young princes answer the Speaking Bird, despite a warning, they turn to stone.
  • Wonder Child: The youngest sister says that if the king marries her, she will bear "two sons with apples in their hands, and a daughter with a star on her brow". Earnestly desiring such children, the king marries her, and she does.
  • Youngest Child Wins: The youngest sister makes the grandest promise (to bear marvelous children) and so wins the king in marriage.


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