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Literature / The Three Aunts

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The three "aunts".

"Well never mind, child," said the old woman, "If you'll call me Aunt on the happiest day of your life, I'll spin this flax for you, and so you may just go away and lie down to sleep."

"The Three Aunts" is a Norwegian Fairy Tale collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jorgen Moe.

A girl had to go into service, where the queen liked her so much that the other servants, envious, claimed she had said she could spin a pound of flax in a day, and the queen insisted that she actually do it, even though she couldn't spin. (In versions where the tale is combined with "The Three Spinners," she CAN spin—she's just lazy.) An old woman came and did it for her in exchange for being an Honorary Aunt on her wedding. The servants claimed she said she could weave it in a day, and the queen insisted, but another old woman helped her. The servants claimed she could sew it up in a day, and the queen insisted again, but another old woman helped her.

The queen was pleased with her skill and had her marry the prince because she would not need to hire women to do such work. The three old women came to the wedding feast and are, by daylight, hideously ugly, but the girl called them each Auntie, and they got to sit at the feast. The prince asked why his pretty bride had such ugly aunts, and they explained they had been as pretty as she once, but their endless spinning, weaving and sewing had ruined their looks. The prince promptly forbade her to do these things ever again.

Full text here.Compare Rumpelstiltskin.

Tropes included

  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted. The three aunts are clearly very good, but all of them are quite ugly; the first having an impossibly long nose, which she states is from spinning, the second a monstrous humped back, which she claims is because of weaving, and the third having huge, bleary, bloodshot eyes, which she says is due to sewing.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The other servants.
  • Honorary Aunt: Three of them.
  • Impossible Task: All that spinning and weaving.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Invoked Trope, as the aunts claim that their hideous appearances are from doing manual labor for years.
  • Leonine Contract: Subverted: their requests are minor and end up helping her.
  • Rule of Three: Three aunts.
  • Secret Test/Laser-Guided Karma: The princess was asked to invite the ugly aunts to her wedding. If she had "forgotten" about them, or refused, she would have continued in a life of drudgery. On her wedding day, the bride doesn't hesitate a moment before greeting her "Aunties," and since she keeps her end of the bargain, her reward is that she will never have to work again.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine