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Literature / The Love of Three Oranges

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Illustration by Warwick Goble

The Love Of Three Oranges is a wide-spread European Fairy Tale.

A prince, for some reason, is on a quest for wife.

He finds a place where he is given three oranges — or citrons, or other fruit — and directed not to break them open until he has some water. When he breaks them open, a beautiful woman appears and asks for water. Twice he fails, and she dies or disappears, but the third time, he gives her water and wins her.

He leaves her by a spring or other body of water so that she can be brought to his father in proper state, and while he's gone, an ugly slave sees the reflection, takes it for her own, and decides she's too pretty to be a slave. Then she realizes the beautiful woman is there, and tricks her into letting her transform her into a bird by driving a pin into her head.

When the prince returns, she claims to have been magically transformed, and the prince dutifully returns with her. The bird interfers with the wedding festivities. Someone catches her, and draws out the pin, revealing the truth.

The slave is punished, and the prince marries the woman.

Some variants include

The tale is used in Sergei Prokofiev's opera with the same title.

Tropes in these stories.