A merchant goes to the fair and asks his daughters what they want. The older two, plain, hard-hearted, and caring only for finery, ask for rich gifts; the beautiful, kind-hearted youngest, a good housekeeper, asked for a red flower. Twice he forgot it entirely, while getting the sister's gifts, but the third time, he found he could not buy one anywhere in the fair. Finally, he rode toward home, and met an old man who had one, and kept it for the bride of his son, Finist the Falcon. The merchant got it only on condition that she marry his son.
When the daughter got the flower, she agreed that if he wooed her, Finist would win her. That night, a falcon flew to her room and transformed into a handsome prince. He gave her a feather of his, which would conjure what she wished. The next day, as her sisters went to Mass in their finery, she waited until they were gone and conjured up a splendid coach and fine attire for herself, and went herself. Everyone was dazzled, but she forgot to take a diamond ornament out, and her sisters told their father that she had a secret lover, who gave her it. When he did not listen, they gave their sister a sleeping potion, and put knives in the window so that the falcon was badly injured.
The next morning, she saw the blood, and then remembered hearing the words in her sleep. She has the shoes and staves made and sets out to search for him. During her wanderings, she met three old women who told her Finist was to marry, and she might reach him in time for the wedding feast, and sent her onward.
When she reaches the land, she finds a servant trying to wash the blood out of Finist's shirt from the knives, and takes it from her, weeping over it, which makes it white again. The bride wants to see such a woman. For three nights, the daughter bribed her with the things the old women had given her, to let her stay in Finist's bedchamber, but the bride had put an enchanted pin in his hair to keep him from waking. The third night, she knocks it loose, and he wakes.
The next day, Finist summons all the court and asks whether he should marry the woman who bought him or the woman who sold him, and they all agreed that he should marry the woman who bought him. So he and the daughter married.
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It is Aarne–Thompson type 432, the prince as bird. Compare East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Pintosmalto, Soria Moria Castle, and The Blue Mountains — and the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Josepha Sherman retold it as The Shining Falcon.
The Feather of Finist the Falcon provides examples of the following tropes:
- Beauty Equals Goodness: The youngest daughter is the only one to be either.
- It Was a Gift: The inciting incident of the story
- The Quest: The daughter's, for Finist
- Rule of Three: Three sisters, three gifts, three attempts to wake him
- Textile Work Is Feminine: The daughter's skill at laundry.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Finist into falcon
- Youngest Child Wins: The one who wins Finist.
- You Have Waited Long Enough: Finist is told this, and she just arrives in time.