Fairer-than-a-Fairy (Mailly)

Fairer-than-a-Fairy (French Le Prince Arc-en-ciel, The Rainbow Prince) is a literary fairy tale published anonymously in the 1718 fairy tale collection Nouveaux contes de fées. It is attributed to the Chevalier de Mailly.[1] Andrew Lang included it in The Yellow Fairy Book.[2]


After many childless years, a king had a daughter so beautiful that he named her "Fairer-than-a-Fairy". This enraged the fairies, who resolved to kidnap her. They entrusted this to the oldest fairy, Lagrée, who had only one eye and one tooth left and could preserve those only by soaking them in a magical liquid at night. She kidnapped the seven-year-old princess, whose cat and dog followed her, and brought her to a castle, where she had a pretty room but was charged to never let a fire go out and to take care of two glass bottles.

One day, while she wandered in the garden, sunlight struck a fountain, and she heard a voice telling her that he was a prince held prisoner here, and he had fallen in love with her; he could speak only in the form of a rainbow, when sunlight shone on that fountain. They talked when they could, which one day led to her allowing the fire to go out. Lagrée, delighted, ordered Fairer-than-a-Fairy to get a new fire from Locrinos, a cruel monster that ate whoever it found, especially young girls. On the way, a bird told her to pick up a shining pebble, and she did. She reached Locrinos's house; only his wife was home, and she was impressed by her manners and beauty, and still more by the stone, and so she gave her the fire and another stone.

The princess was able to meet her lover again, and they devised a way, by putting a crystal bowl on her windowsill, that they could meet more readily. One day, the prince appeared, woeful; he had just learned that his prison was to be changed. The next day, it was cloudy all day until the very end. In her haste to reach him, Fairer-than-a-Fairy upset the bowl. Rather than lose the chance to speak with him, she filled it with the water from the two bottles. Then she set out with her dog and cat, a sprig of myrtle, and the stone Locrinos's wife had given her. Lagrée followed her. When Fairer-than-a-Fairy slept in the shelter that the stone made, Lagrée caught up, but the dog bit her, making her fall and break her last tooth. While she raged, Fairer-than-a-Fairy escaped and went on. She slept under a myrtle that sprang up from the sprig, and when Lagrée reached her, the cat scratched her eye out, making the fairy helpless against her.

Fairer-than-a-Fairy went on. Each night, for three nights, she found a green and white house, where a woman in green and white gave her a nut, a golden pomegranate, and a crystal smelling-bottle, to open at her greatest need. After that, she came to a silver castle, without doors or windows, suspended by silver chains from trees. She wanted to get into it and cracked the nut. She found in it a tiny hall porter, with a key. She climbed one of the chains and the porter let her in a secret door. She found the Rainbow Prince there, asleep. She told her story, twenty times, loudly, without waking him. She opened the pomegranate, where violins flew out of the seeds and began to play, waking him, but not entirely. Fairer-than-a-Fairy opened the bottle, where a siren flew out and told him his lady's story, rousing him. The castle walls opened up, and a court assembled about them, with the prince's mother, who informed him that his father was dead and he was now king. The three green and white ladies appeared and revealed Fairer-than-a-Fairy's royal birth. The prince and she married.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mayer, Charles-Joseph de (ed.), Nouveau Cabinet des fées. 14. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k76071/f8.image
  2. ^ Andrew Lang, The Yellow Fairy Book, "Fairer-than-a-Fairy"