With fairy tales, there always seems to be a core of popular tales which many people don’t think beyond. The idea of this blog tour is to share our favourite obscure fairy tales, and get the word out about them!
The tour so far:
Adam Hoffman at Fairy Tale Fandom
Kristin at Tales of Faerie
Zalka Csenge Virág at The Multicoloured Diary
Megan Hicks at Life, the Universe and Everything
Gypsy Thornton at Once Upon a Blog
Whilst travelling a couple of years ago, I came across an antique bookshop. Of course I went inside, and it was there I found William Canton’s True Annals of Fairy-Land. I’d never heard of it before, and it wasn’t overly expensive so I bought it. I still don’t know that much about it – there’s an inscription on the inside cover stating it was awarded to a student at Hulme Grammar School in Manchester for ‘general form work’ in 1924, but the name is illegible and there is no date or place of publication. I’ve found out that William Canton was a British poet and journalist, who lived from 1825-1926. He is best known for his children’s books, one of the most popular being The Invisible Playmate.
I’ve chosen a tale from the True Annals of Fairy-Land for my post. It’s called ‘The Valiant Blackbird.’ In the book, there is a lovely illustration adorning the page it begins on:
The story is about Mr. Blackbird, who is a very good singer and lives with his mate, Mrs. Blackbird. Upon hearing his song, the king wants to keep him in a cage so he can hear it all the time. However, the king’s servants catch Mrs. Blackbird instead by accident. Determined to rescue her, Mr. Blackbird dons a helmet made from a walnut shell, armour made from frog skin and a sword made from a thorn. From the other half of the walnut shell he makes a drum and, beating it, sets out for the king’s palace.
On the way there, he meets a cat and some ants who also have a score to settle with the king. They jump into Mr. Blackbird’s ear to travel with him. Further on, he meets a rope with a club and a river, who also jump into his ear and join the others on the journey to the palace.
When they arrive, the king’s porter lets Mr. Blackbird in, who now refers to himself as General Blackbird in light of the eclectic army hidden away in his ears. The porter laughs at him, but takes him to the king regardless. General Blackbird demands his wife back, but the king refuses and locks him in the hen house for the night thinking they will kill him. But General Blackbird has other ideas. Once alone, he sings:
‘Come out, Pussy, from my ear,
There are fowls aplenty here;
Scratch them, make their feathers fly,
Wring their necks until they die.’
The cat does exactly this, then goes back into his ear and he sleeps. In the morning, the king sends his servants to retrieve General Blackbird’s body. Instead, they find him singing surrounded by the dead hens.
Outraged, the next night the king locks General Blackbird in the stable with wild horses. Yet again, he sings:
‘Come out, Rope, and come out Stick,
Tie the horses lest they kick;
Beat the horses on the head,
Beat them till they fall down dead.’
The rope and club comply, and the next morning the king sends in his servants again to retrieve General Blackbird’s body. But again, they find him singing and all the horses dead. On the third night, the king has him locked in with the elephants. This time, General Blackbird summons the ants:
‘Come from out my ear, you Ants,
Come and sting the Elephants;
Sting their trunk, and sting their head,
Sting them till they fall down dead.’
I’m sure you can guess what happens next! The ants sting. The servants arrive in the morning, and find the elephants dead and General Blackbird singing.
On the final night, wanting to find out how General Blackbird has slain his animals, the king has him tied to his bed and watches. He sings one last time:
‘Come out, River, from my ear,
Flow about the bedroom here;
Pour yourself upon the bed,
Drown the King till he is dead.’
The river flows, and as the king’s bed begins to float he cries out and tells General Blackbird to take Mrs. Blackbird and begone. Reunited, they live in true fairy tale fashion: happily ever after.
The first time I read this story, I found it pretty amusing that a blackbird could take on a king and win. Such is the world of Faery! But really, the king deserved it. What he did was wrong, and this story goes to show that nature should not be interfered with and especially not for vain reasons. If you would like to, you can read the full story here.
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Amelia Starling is a writer and folklorist. She graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative Writing, and is Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday
. She loves travelling and collecting stories, and spent 15 months living in Japan doing this alongside teaching English. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web
. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize