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Literature / The White Dove

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"The White Dove" is a Danish Fairy Tale, included by Andrew Lang in The Pink Fairy Book.

A witch rescues two princes from a storm at sea on the condition of receiving their younger (not yet born) brother. Years later, she claims him, and he goes with her, since they promised. She sets him to sort feathers, and when he does, a whirlwind mixes them up again. A white dove taps on the window and offers to help, and sorts all the feathers. The next day he's set to chop wood, and the pile keeps growing the longer he works. The dove again helps, splitting all the wood. The prince thanked her and kissed her, and she turned into a lovely woman and tells how she's a kidnapped princess. He must ask for her as the princess she keeps flying about a dove, and recognize her despite shapeshifting by the red thread she will bear on her foot.


The witch tries to offer him, in turn, a brokendown donkey and an old hag, but they are the princess, and he says he will accept them. The witch, to keep her promise, lets them marry, but the princess warns they must flee because she has fulfilled it and need do no more for that. They leave behind two pieces of wood enchanted to speak for them, and take some water and a flowerpot. When the witch goes to kill them in the morning, she finds the wood and chases. First they throw down the flowerpot, which turns into a wood. When she gets through that, they throw down the water, which turns to a lake and makes her go back for her dough-trough, to cross it. Then they reach his castle, and the princess blew her breath outward, which causes hundreds of white doves to attack the witch, who turned to flint in her anger.


The brothers confess what they had done and say he should be their father's heir.

This tale type is known as "The Girl Helps The Hero Flee". Some of the older forms of Rapunzel, such as Snow-White-Fire-Red, appear to be closely related enough to be derived from it. Prunella is a near Gender Flip, where the heroine is helped with the tasks.

Full text here.

Tropes included

  • The Atoner: The protagonist's two elder brothers try to atone for initially promising him to the witch by letting him be the sole heir to their father's kingdom.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The princess/dove/donkey/old hag is changed by the witch.
  • Gratuitous Princess: The witch's captive is a princess, but doesn't seem to have a kingdom. And since she becomes queen anyway after marrying the prince, the story wouldn't have changed if she had been a peasant girl.
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  • Impossible Task: The witch imposes them.
  • Magic Kiss: This disenchants the princess, briefly.
  • The Promise: The witch must let him marry the princess.
  • They Do: They marry half way through, unusually for a fairy tale.
  • Wicked Witch: Tricks the princes into promising their brother, captures a princess, imposes tasks.
  • Youngest Child Wins: The youngest prince is the hero, and wins the princess, and gets to inherit the kingdom.


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