'Do you want a maid?' says she.
'No, we don’t,' said they.
'I haven't nowhere to go," says she; "and I ask no wages, and do any sort of work,' says she.
'Well,' said they, 'if you like to wash the pots and scrape the saucepans you may stay,' said they.
So she stayed there and washed the pots and scraped the saucepans and did all the dirty work."
Your less-developed fantasy worlds will contain no castle underlings save guards and kitchen staff. The guards lead a sad existence as Red Shirts, but the latter option presents a marvelous opportunity for anyone willing to submit to a little drudgery, if she can only get herself placed as a Scullery Maid.
If she's in for infiltration, scullery maids (or any other menial help staff) are practically invisible. They don't get very much access to sensitive areas of the castle, true, but chances are someone will notice our heroine's talents and give her a promotion, or else that she'll have a knack for attracting Exact Eavesdropping. If the infiltration has some sort of assassination in mind, kitchen staff have a perfect opportunity to poison people. If there's a ball, promotions can go quite high. It is, indeed the go-to job for runaway Fairy Tale Princesses.
If she's simply hiding out — well, no one suspects that The Chosen One is sweating over boiling potatoes.
Even if she's basically been enslaved into such a position, the Scullery Maid will find some way to prevail. Contrast with Meido, French Maid, and Ninja Maid for less realistic interpretations of the role.
For reference, the scullery is a small, hot, sweaty room behind the kitchen, where heavy, dirty, menial work, such as cleaning pots and pans, is carried out. As the lowest-ranking servant in the household, the pay of a scullery maid was below abysmal and she would often be pressed into service doing any unpleasant tasks around the house (like emptying chamber pots) and serving upon the rest of the servants. In Real Life, most non-enslaved scullery maids only stayed in the position for a year or two, just long enough to get the character reference required to move on to a better job, and would typically have little to no contact with the family members — all in all, not dissimilar to the modern Burger Fool.
The Spear Counterpart is also found, particularly in works more carefully based on the High Middle Ages or earlier. Medieval households generally employed men (scullions) to work in the scullery, as women were considered too weak to do the heavy work. It was only during the Victorian era that the job was mostly given to maids, as female servants were more plentiful and cheaper to hire. Compare Farm Boy.
- "Cap o' Rushes", having been thrown out by her father for saying she loved him like she loved salt, went for such a job.
- Joseph Jacobs's "Catskin" as a Runaway Fiancée
I’m sorry I have no better place, but if you like you may be our scullion.
- "Katie Woodencloak":
Yes, the cook said she might have a place — she might have leave to be there in the scullery, and wash up, for the lassie who did that work before had just gone away.
- "Rashin Coatie" after running away from home.
All-Kinds-of-Fur, thou wilt be useful in the kitchen, come with us, and thou canst sweep up the ashes.
"If I could get," said she, "leave to go to service to this great house yonder." "They want none," said the herd, "unless they want one under the hand of the cook." The herd went to speak for her, and she went as a servant maid under the hand of the cook.
- In "Catherine and Her Fate", Catherine, having chosen to be miserable in youth and happy in old age rather than the other way round, ends up as a Scullery Maid — except that her Fate, being an Anthropomorphic Personification, is always showing up and wrecking her position for seven years.
- In Joseph Jacobs' "The Fish And The Ring" (here), this is the job the girl takes after the Baron throws her out.
- The Brothers Grimm's "Maid Maleen": After breaking out of their prison-tower, the princess and her chambermaid find jobs as scullery maids in the nearest city.
- "King Thrushbeard": After being thrown out of her father's kingdom, the ex-princess is forced to work as a scullery maid in the palace of King Thrushbeard.
- Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's "The Enchanted Quill": The youngest sister gets a job as a scullery maid for a prince in order to break her fiancé's curse.
- Pearl from Anywhere But Here was a product of the Foster Care system and was abused by her foster parents, given raggedy clothes, little food and left alone in public places for hours at a time (at an age where that is not okay) before she developed an unlikely friendship with Pink, becoming her personal maid.
- In Wolfwalkers, main character Robyn is ordered to work in the castle scullery by the Lord Protector, and her father also prefers that she work there since it means she'll be safe. Since Robyn had more freedom before she and her father moved to Ireland and the work is shown to be long and monotonous, she hates it.
- Bridget from Trolls, a Bergen maid whom Chef forces to work at the scullery while she prepares to cook the Trolls. She also harbors a crush on the Bergen king, Gristle Jr. The Trolls help her win his love, and she frees them in return.
- This is Love Interest Kittie Wilson's actual job title in Barber Black Sheep, although the protagonist meets her while she's filling in for the estate's gardener.
- In A City in Winter, the long-lost child queen takes a tip from La Résistance and takes a rather exhausting job sorting yams. Her subsequent rocketing through the ranks is heavily implied to be, quite literally, divine intervention.
- The heroine of The Catswold Portal seems aware of this trope, but unfortunately for her, the evil queen interrogates every last member of the staff personally. (She dodges it well enough to complete her mission in the castle, but the added difficulties end up making the story halfway a romance.)
- A Song of Ice and Fire actually plays this more or less straight with Arya.
- Shae, on the other hand, rejects the archetype, as she actually became a whore in the first place in order to stop working in a kitchen.
- Lessa in Dragonriders of Pern starts out as a drudge with a very overdeveloped sense of vengeance. It takes years for her to finally get a chance at her foe, though she does enact loads of scorched-earth policies in the interim.
- This was popular with Kunoichi. See That Other Wiki.
- In Monstrous Regiment, this is how the heroes get inside the castle (including the male lieutenant, who is the most enthusiastic of them all). (They're actually laundry maids, but it's the same difference- and because the castle is occupied by an army, there's practically endless vacancies for those)
- In Equal Rites, after the senior wizards have laughed at Esk wanting to be a wizard, Granny Weatherwax tells her there is another way into Unseen University, where no-one will question her being there and she can "really clean up". She's not impressed when she realises this is Not a Metaphor.
- Nanny Ogg uses this as a highly successful infiltration technique. She's at home around people; knows their names, their family trees, and everyone's maladies after about half an hour, and knows that nobody ever questions a little old lady being helpful because it's a job you don't have to do and nobody cares if she doesn't get paid.
- In The Chinese Maze Murders, Dee plants a spy in one household by sending her to get a job as a temporary maid.
- Lalasa in the Protector Of The Small series (by Tamora Pierce) started as a Scullery Maid before becoming Kel's personal maid.
- Ella Enchanted has the title character assume this position in her own home after her obedience curse is discovered by her stepsisters. The job is given by none other than Ella's own fairy godmother, who works as a cook for the family and pretends indifference towards her godchild in order to protect her from being forced into a much lower position.
- In A Little Princess, Sara Crewe takes this role to pay her headmistress. Before that, she befriends Becky, the actual scullery maid at the school.
- In David Eddings' Belgariad, powerful sorceress Polgara hides herself and the Chosen One as a cook for a rural farm and her nephew/scullery boy. This works ..sort of. Asharak apparently knew where Garion was the whole time, and they leave because Brill's found out where they are.
- Egwene in The Wheel of Time is held prisoner in this position to keep her out of the way and break her back into being a novice. It gave her even more power than when she was forced to redo classes.
- In Patricia A. McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Saro, after the magic had rendered her mute and dazed.
- In The Secret Garden, Mary's first relationship in her new home is with Martha, the young scullery maid who comes to clean the fireplace in her room. Mary can't do anything for herself (having always been waited on hand and foot) and Martha takes pity on her and helps her learn to be self-sufficient.
- In The Ordinary Princess, Princess Amy runs away to the neighbouring kingdom to live in the forest. After wearing out her clothes, she decides to get a job as a scullery maid in the castle, and there meets the king.
- In the Chivalric Romance Havelock The Dane, Havelock is working as a kitchen boy when the regent decides to nullify Princess Goldborough by marrying her off to this splendid but lowly man. (Turns out he's the rightful king of Denmark and can reclaim her throne after his.)
- In Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles story "Utensile Strength", Cimorene wants to interview people for the kitchen staff herself, to prevent a princess from being taken on. She fails.
- In Julie Kagawa's The Iron King, Titania forces Meghan into this role.
- There is a class of fairy tales — see the fairy tale section. The episode "Sapsorrow" of The Storyteller is adapted from one of these.
- Daisy from Downton Abbey is actually a scullery maid to start with (as in, that's her job title), but she's not spying on anyone and it's 20th-century Britain so the most nefarious things going on involve servants' jostling for better jobs. She later gets promoted to Assistant Cook, and is replaced as kitchen maid by Ivy.
- Wonder Woman: In "The Queen and the Thief" Diana goes undercover as a scullery maid while Steve Trevor poses as Steven Ludwig, president of the American Malachar cultural association. Diana immediately points out the chauvinism, but ultimately her cover lasts longer than his.
- In an episode of Las Vegas an office worker is marrying a dot-com billionaire. When it is remarked that "it's just like Cinderella" she, being sick of the comparison, says rather sharply "I was a secretary, not a scullery maid".
- In King's Quest V, Big Bad Mordack forces Princess Cassima to work as a scullery maid until she agrees to marry him. So naturally, she's more than willing to help King Graham defeat Mordack.
- Malborn from Skyrim does this in an attempt to avenge his murdered family. It doesn't work out in that regard, but it definitely helps with the dragonpocalypse, anyway.
- Daisy Fitzroy in BioShock Infinite worked at Comstock House as a scullery maid before she was chased out for killing Lady Comstock and went on the form the rebel group Vox Populi that fought against Columbia's extremely white supremacist society. She was actually framed by Zachary Hale Comstock himself, who killed his wife because she knew too much.
- One of the early game zones in Kingdom of Loathing is the Haunted Kitchen (the kitchen of a Haunted House), and one of the enemies there is a skeletal Skullery Maid.
- Henchman 21 from The Venture Brothers reveals in a counceling session that he was part of the "scullion class" of The Monarch's army.