Fairy Tales: The Princess As the Witch in ‘Tricking the Witch’

Following on from my ‘All Kinds of Fur’ post, I did some more research into witchlike princesses. I made a poll on Twitter asking people which they would prefer to be. The results were overwhelmingly in favour of witch, with the strongest reason having magical powers. Some also specified they would like to be a ‘good’ witch. On the other hand, people who voted for princess said they would not like to be cruel and would enjoy wearing pretty clothes. Although the poll is now expired, you can still add to the discussion. Just reply to the tweet via the above link. I’d love to hear some more opinions!

I also found another fairy tale featuring a witchlike princess in The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales, which is an anthology of Bavarian fairy tales collected by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in the mid-19th century. It’s called ‘Tricking the Witch,’ and tells of three princesses who are captured by ‘an evil witch.’ However, instead of sitting around awaiting rescue, ‘the girls learned a few magic tricks.’ In particular, the youngest princess Reinhilda  proves to have quite a talent for witchcraft. When a prince stumbles upon them and is also captured by the witch, she gives him strict survival instructions and ‘fled with him using the magic she had learned.’ Of course a chase ensues; the witch sends Reinhilda’s sisters to retrieve her but she manages to evade them with her skills. First she transforms herself and the prince in to a rosebush, to ward off the middle princess who ‘can’t stand the smell of roses,’ and then into a church and a preacher giving ‘a stern sermon about witches and their sinister magic’ to scare off the eldest princess (I just LOVE this! Sassiness points +100!).

When the witch herself comes after them, Reinhilda takes the prince’s sword and transforms him into a duck and herself into a pond. The witch drinks the pond, and then Reinhilda changes herself back and kills the witch by using the sword to cut herself out of the witch’s body.

Aside from her immense skills with magic, Reinhilda is also clever. She knows what will upset her sisters the most and doesn’t hesitate to use it against them, and shows cunning in her carefully thought out plan to defeat the witch. The prince is a mere accessory along for the ride; Reinhilda is the fearless agent in this story. But, in spite of her obvious witchy abilities, at the end of the story she frees her sisters, marries the prince, and they all live together happily ever after. Presumably in the royal palace. Reinhilda successfully manages to be both the witch and the princess, by using her powers and also not having to relinquish her royal status in the process.

As shown by these fairy tales, princesses and witches do not always have to be opposing forces. They change the dynamic of the story by proving that you can be magical and independent as well as being royalty. You can get the happy ending and keep the mysterious powers.

Can you think of any other witchlike fairy tale princesses? Please let me know in the comments! I’d love to find more examples for this topic!


  • Franz Xaver von Schönwerth, ‘Tricking the Witch’ in The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales (New York: Penguin, 2015)
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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. Currently she is living in Scotland and studying for a masters degree in Ethnology & Creative Writing. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize.

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