The Story of Pretty Goldilocks

The Story of Pretty Goldilocks or The Beauty with Golden Hair is a French literary fairy tale written by Madame d'Aulnoy.[1] Andrew Lang included it in The Blue Fairy Book.[2]

The Story of Pretty Goldilocks
Madame d'Aulnoy - John Gilbert - The Fair with Golden Hair.jpg
The ambassador presents Goldilocks with the giant's head as proof of his deed.
Folk tale
NameThe Story of Pretty Goldilocks
Also known asLa Belle aux cheveux d'or
Aarne-Thompson groupingATU 531 (The Clever Horse)
Published inLes Contes des Fées (1697), by Madame d'Aulnoy

It is Aarne–Thompson type 531. This type is generally called "The Clever Horse," but is known in French as La Belle aux cheveux d'or, after this tale.[3] Other tales of this type include Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful, The Firebird and Princess Vasilisa, Corvetto, King Fortunatus's Golden Wig, and The Mermaid and the Boy.[4]


A princess was so beautiful and had such golden hair that she was known as Pretty Goldilocks. A neighboring king fell in love with her from her description, but much to the king's disappointment, she rejected his ambassador, saying she had no wish to be married. A young courtier and royal favorite, called Charming, told his friends that if he had gone, she would have accepted, and the king threw him in prison. He lamented his fate, and the king, hearing, told him what he had said was the cause of it. Charming said that he would have drawn such a picture of the king as to make him irresistible to her, and the king decided to send him. On the way, he helped a carp that was out of water, a raven being chased by an eagle, and an owl caught in a net; each one promised to help him.

When he attempted to bring his master's suit before the princess, she told him that she had lost a ring in the river and was so vexed that she would not listen to any suit unless the ambassador brought back her ring. His dog, Frisk, advised him to try, and the carp brought him the ring. When he brought it to Goldilocks, she told him that a giant who was a prince had tried to marry her and was troubling her subjects. She could not listen unless he killed the giant. He went to fight it, and with the raven's aid in pecking the giant's eyes during the fight, he succeeded. Goldilocks refused unless he brought her some water from the Fountain of Health and Beauty, and the owl fetched the water for him.

The princess agreed then and made preparations to go and marry the king, although she at times wished they could stay, and she would marry Charming. Charming refused to be disloyal to his king.

Goldilocks married the king but remained fond of Charming, and Charming's enemies told the king that she praised him so highly, he should be jealous. The king had Charming thrown in a tower. When Goldilocks begged for his freedom, the king refused, but decided to rub his face with the water from the Fountain of Health and Beauty to please her. A maid had broken that bottle, though, and replaced it with another, not knowing the other bottle was actually a potent poison used for executing nobles by rubbing their faces with it.

Frisk came to the queen and asked her not to forget Charming, and the queen immediately released him and married him.


The horse helperEdit

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther tales types ATU 530, 531 (The Clever Horse) and 533 (The Speaking Horsehead) fall under the umbrella of Supernatural Helper in the folk/fairy tale index and pertain to a cycle of stories in which a magical horse helps the hero or heroine by giving advice and/or instructing him/her.[5]

At the beginning of the tale, the hero finds some shiny objects in his way (a shining feather or a shining lock of hair), but his talking horse warns him against it.[6]

The role of the heroineEdit

The heroine's lack of agency has been noticed and called into question: despite being part of Madame d'Aulnoy's cast of heroines and princesses with agency in her literary fairy tales,[7] Princess Goldilocks still needs the intervention of a third party (the loyal ambassador) in order to ensure her happy ending at the end of the tale.[8]

The name of the princessEdit

Alternate translations to the name of the tale are Princess Goldenhair,[9] The Fair with Golden Hair[10][11] The Fair Maid with Golden Locks,[12] or Fair Goldilocks.[13] Fair is an English word associated with beauty,[14][15] and it keeps the connection between light-colored hair and good qualities, like kindness and beauty.

The ritual of rejuvenation or beautificationEdit

In many variants, the last item the hero must quest for is the "milk of fiery mares", which will grant beauty, strength and vigour after a special ritual. Russian folklorist Alexander Afanasyev mentioned that these equine characters come from the sea. When the princess uses the magical milk, the horse helper uses its breath to protect the hero, by inhaling the fumes or by cooling the mixture. When the kingly rival steps in, he is killed in the process.[16]

When the emperor or king uses the ointment or magical water, a mix-up happens: the maid or a lady-in-waiting accidentally breaks the flask and, in a hurry, unknowingly substitutes the broken vial with poison. This theme is also widespread in French literary and oral tradition, under the theme of La Jeune Fille aux cheveux d'or et l'Eau de la mort et de la vie:[17] a king, emperor or sultan becomes enamored with a princess or lady of royal birth, famed for her golden hair, and sends an emissary (a knight, a page, an ambassador) to win her over in his stead. When the dame is brought before her would-be suitor, she seizes the opportunity to dispose of him, by performing an elaborate ritual involving the holy water, or bath. After the deed is done, her kingly suitor is (accidentally or deliberately) killed,[18] and she is free to marry the emissary.[19]



Professor Stith Thompson remarked that the geographic distribution of the tale pointed to "an unbroken line through the Caucasus, the Near East, India, Cambodia, and the Philippines", which suggested an Eastern point of origin, "possibly from India".[20] Its dissemination is also said to be limited "to Eastern Europe, Greece, Turkey and India".[21]

A quantitative study, published by folklorist Sara Graça da Silva and anthropologist Jamshid J. Tehrani in 2016, seemed to indicate that the tale type shows a certain antiquity: based on a phylogenetic model, both researchers estimated that the ATU 531 type belongs to an ancestral tale corpora of the Indo-Iranian languages and the Western branch of the Indo-European languages.[22]


A predecessor to the tale penned by Madame d'Aulnoy is Livoretto, an Italian literary fairy tale by Giovanni Straparola, in his The Facetious Nights.[23][24][25]



Despite its origins as a literary tale penned by Madame d'Aulnoy, the story shares many recognizable themes and motifs with many tales collected from oral tradition and folklore, such as those by the Brothers Grimm. For example, Ferdinand the Faithful and Ferdinand the Unfaithful.[26] In French sources, d'Aulnoy's tale has been reported to have influenced at least 5 of the 51 versions collected.[27]

The character of the foreign princess of an exotic, sometimes fictional, country appears in French variant La princesse de Tronkolaine ("The Princess of Tronkolaine").[28]

The episode where the king tries to get rid of his rival by bathing in a vat of a special mixture or using the ointment/holy water the hero collected also happens in Romanian fairy tale The Girl Who Pretended to be a Boy, published in 1901 in Andrew Lang’s The Violet Fairy Book. A similar event happens in Russian fairy tale The Firebird and Princess Vasilisa and in French/Breton fairy tale King Fortunatus's Golden Wig (Barvouskenn ar roue Fortunatus).[29]

The character of the lovely maiden with golden hair also appears in Slavic fairy tales, with the name Dieva Zlato Vláska or simply Zlatovláska, meaning Goldenhair.[30] As such, the fairy tale was adapted into the Czech film Zlatovláska (Goldilocks, Czechoslovakia, 1973).[31]

A variant in Spanish has been collected by writer Fernán Caballero, titled Bella-Flor.[32] The tale has been translated into English and published in Andrew Lang's The Orange Fairy Book, with the name The Princess Bella-Flor.[33]

According to Professor Bronislava Kerbelytė, the tale type is reported to register two hundred Lithuanian variants, under the banner The Clever Horse, with and without contamination from other tale types.[34]

At least two Armenian variants combine the tale type ATU 531, "The Clever Horse" with ATU 551, "The Water of Life ("The Wonderful Remedy for the King)". In Kush-Pari, three princes search for a cure for their father's blindness, but only the youngest is successful in journeying beyond the realm with his father's magical horse. The prince finds a brilliant golden feather on the way to another kingdom and delivers it to a second king, who wants the bird: the titular Kush-Pari. The prince fetches the Kush-Pari, her handmaiden and forty fiery mares for a ritual. The prince and the king take part in the ritual, but the king dies and the prince marries the Kush-Pari, now in human form. As the tale concludes, the Kush-Pari gives her husband the remedy to save his father.[35] In The Fiery Horse, the three princes must seek, as remedy for their father, a lump of earth from "no human has even trodden". To help them in their quest, they need their father's Fiery Horse, found in the depths of a forest, but only the youngest prince finds and rides it. They ride into the Dark City and find a Luminous Feather. They appear before the king of this city, who wishes to own the bird of the luminous plumage. The second taks is to bring the king the maiden who owns 40 cows swift as the wind and their milk as the third task. The prince and the king go through a ritual with the boiling milk, but only the prince goes unscathed and marries the maiden. Some time later, she reveals her husband the location of the fabled lump of earth: at the bottom oa a lake, guarded by "ferocious Watery Horses tall as Mares"[36]


A Filipino variant, titled Benito, the faithful servant, has been collected and published in The Journal of American Folklore.[37]

Variants of tale have been identified in the works of Pandit Ram Gharib Chaube and British orientalist William Crooke.[38]


The tale was one of many from d'Aulnoy's pen to be adapted to the stage by James Planché, as part of his Fairy Extravaganza.[39][40][41] He translated the tale as The Fair One with Golden Locks for the stage.[42][43]

The tale was adapted and retold by William Trowbridge Larned as The King's Messenger.[44]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Marie Catherine Baronne D'Aulnoy, The Fairy Tales of Madame D'Aulnoy. Miss Annie Macdonell and Miss Lee, translators. Clinton Peters, illustrator. London: Lawrence and Bullen, 1892."Fair Goldilocks"
  2. ^ Andrew Lang, The Blue Fairy Book, "The Story of Pretty Goldilocks"
  3. ^ Delarue, Paul (1956). The Borzoi Book of French Folk-Tales. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 363.
  4. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner, "Tales Similar to Firebird"
  5. ^ Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. pp. 61-65. ISBN 0-520-03537-2
  6. ^ Skabeikytė-Kazlauskienė, Gražina. Lithuanian Narrative Folklore: Didactical Guidelines. Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University. 2013. p. 15. ISBN 978-9955-21-361-1.
  7. ^ Guillán, Raquel. (2018). "Los personajes femeninos en los cuentos de hadas de Madame d'Aulnoy: un análisis de "Finita Cenicienta" y "Enano Amarillo"." In: DIGILEC: Revista Internacional de Lenguas y Culturas. 4. 37. 10.17979/digilec.2017.4.0.3075.
  8. ^ Reddan, Bronwyn. “Thinking Through Things: Magical Objects, Power, and Agency in French Fairy Tales.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 30, no. 2, 2016, pp. 191–209. JSTOR. [] Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.
  9. ^ Vredenburg, Edric, Capt. My Book of Favourite Fairy Tales: retold by the editor and others. London and Paris: Raphael Tuck & Sons. pp. 34-41.
  10. ^ Planché, James Robinson. Fairy Tales by The Countess d'Aulnoy, translated by J. R. Planché. London: G. Routledge & Co. 1856. pp. 22-34.
  11. ^ Buczkowski, Paul. “The First Precise English Translation of Madame D'Aulnoy's Fairy Tales.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 23, no. 1, 2009, pp. 59–78. JSTOR. []. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.
  12. ^ Baring-Gould, Sabine. A book of fairy tales. London: Methuen. 1895. pp. 169-184.
  13. ^ Aulnoy, M. d' (Marie-Catherine)., Dohm, J., Peters, D. Witt Clinton., Lee, M. XX., Macdonell, A. The fairy tales of Madame d'Aulnoy. London: Lawrence and Bullen. 1892. pp. 19-30.
  14. ^ Warner, Marina. From The Beast To The Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers. London: Vintage. 1995. p. 363. ISBN 9780099479512
  15. ^ Conrad, JoAnn. The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 112, no. 446, 1999, pp. 559–561. JSTOR. []. Accessed 10 Apr. 2020.
  16. ^ Афанасьев, А.Н. Поэтические воззрения славян на природу: Опыт сравнительного изучения славянских преданий и верований в связи с мифическими сказаниями других родственных народов. Том 1. Moskva: Izd. K. Soldatenkova 1865. pp. 621-624. (In Russian) [1]
  17. ^ Cosquin, Emmanuel. Contes populaires de Lorraine comparés avec les contes des autres provinces de France et des pays étrangers, et précedés d'un essai sur l'origine et la propagation des contes populaires européens. Tome I. Deuxiéme Tirage. Paris: Vieweg. 1887. pp. 44-49.
  18. ^ Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. pp. 62-63. ISBN 0-520-03537-2
  19. ^ Cosquin, Emmanuel. Contes populaires de Lorraine comparés avec les contes des autres provinces de France et des pays étrangers, et précedés d'un essai sur l'origine et la propagation des contes populaires européens. Tome II. Deuxiéme Tirage. Paris: Vieweg. 1887. pp. 289-303.
  20. ^ Thompson, Stith (1977). The Folktale. University of California Press. p. 63. ISBN 0-520-03537-2.
  21. ^ Haney, Jack V. The Complete Russian Folktale: v. 4: Russian Wondertales 2 - Tales of Magic and the Supernatural. New York: Routledge. 2001. p. 431.
  22. ^ Graça da Silva, Sara; Tehrani, Jamshid J. (January 2016). "Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales". Royal Society Open Science. The Royal Society. 3 (1): 150645. doi:10.1098/rsos.150645. PMC 4736946. PMID 26909191.
  23. ^ Le Marchand, Bérénice V. Review of Contes en réseaux: l’émergence du conte sur la scène littéraire européenne, by Patricia Eichel-Lojkine. Marvels & Tales, vol. 30 no. 2, 2016, p. 371-373. Project MUSE
  24. ^ Raynard, Sophie. (2014). Contes en réseaux: l'émergence du conte sur la scène littéraire européenne by Patricia Eichel-Lojkine (review). French Studies: A Quarterly Review. 68. 279-280.
  25. ^ Donato, P.. (2008). The literary fairy tale of Giovan Francesco Straparola. In: The Romanic Review. Volume 99, Numbers 3–4, The Trustees of Columbia University. pp. 281-296.
  26. ^ Barchilon, J. (2009). Adaptations of Folktales and Motifs in Madame d'Aulnoy's "Contes": A Brief Survey of Influence and Diffusion. Marvels & Tales, 23(2), 353-364. Retrieved April 10, 2020, from []
  27. ^ Marais, Jean-Luc. "Littérature et culture «populaires» aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles". In: Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l'Ouest. Tome 87, numéro 1, 1980. p. 100. [DOI:]
  28. ^ Williams, Wilbur Herschel. Fairy Tales From Folk Lore. New York: Moffat, Yard & Company, 1908. pp. 179-206.
  29. ^ Milin, Gab; Troude, Amable-Emmanuel. Labous ar Wirionez ha Marvailhoù all. Lefournier - Brest. 1870. pp. 35-68.
  30. ^ Chodzko, Aleksander Borejko. Contes des paysans et des pâtres slaves. Paris: L. Hachette et cie.. 1864. pp. 77-94.
  31. ^ Zlatovláska on IMDB
  32. ^ Caballero, Fernán. Cuentos, oraciones, adivinas y refranes populares e infantiles. Leipzig: Brockhaus. 1878. pp. 23-28.
  33. ^ Lang, Andrew. The Orange Fairy Book. New York: Longmans, Green. 1906. pp. 280-291.
  34. ^ Skabeikytė-Kazlauskienė, Gražina. Lithuanian Narrative Folklore: Didactical Guidelines. Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University. 2013. p. 30. ISBN 978-9955-21-361-1
  35. ^ Dixon-Kennedy, Mike (1998). Encyclopedia of Russian and Slavic Myth and Legend. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 160-161. ISBN 9781576070635.
  36. ^ Berman, Michael. The Shamanic Themes in Armenian Folktales. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2008. pp. 79-85. ISBN 9781847186218
  37. ^ Bayliss, Clara Kern. "Philippine Folk-Tales". In: The Journal of American Folklore (JAF) Vol. 21. 1908. pp. 50-53. [2]
  38. ^ Naithani, Sadhana. In quest of Indian folktales: Pandit Ram Gharib Chaube and William Crooke. Indiana University Press. 2006. p. 311. ISBN 978-0-253-34544-8
  39. ^ Feipel, Louis N. "Dramatizations of Popular Tales." The English Journal 7, no. 7 (1918): p. 444. Accessed June 25, 2020. doi:10.2307/801356.
  40. ^ Buczkowski, Paul. "J. R. Planché, Frederick Robson, and the Fairy Extravaganza." Marvels & Tales 15, no. 1 (2001): 42-65. Accessed June 25, 2020.
  41. ^ MacMillan, Dougald. "Planché's Fairy Extravaganzas." Studies in Philology 28, no. 4 (1931): 790-98. Accessed June 25, 2020.
  42. ^ Adams, W. H. Davenport. The Book of Burlesque. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Outlook Verlag GmbH. 2019. p. 74. ISBN 978-3-73408-011-1
  43. ^ Planché, James (1879). Croker, Thomas F.D.; Tucker, Stephen I. (eds.). The extravaganzas of J. R. Planché, esq., (Somerset herald) 1825-1871. 2. London: S. French. pp. Vol 2, pp. 229-266.
  44. ^ Larned, William Trowbridge, and John Rae. [ Fairy-tales From France. New York: P. F. Volland Co., 1920.

Further readingEdit

  • Delarue, Paul et Ténèze, Marie-Louise. Le Conte populaire français. Catalogue raisonné des versions de France et des pays de langue française d'outre-mer Nouvelle édition en un seul volume, Maisonneuve & Larose. 1997 ISBN 2-7068-1277-X
  • Marais, Jean-Luc. Littérature et culture « populaires » aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. In: Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l'Ouest. Tome 87, numéro 1, 1980. pp. 65-105. [DOI:]; []
  • Seydou, Christiane. "Un conte breton: «Petit-Louis, fils d'un charbonnier et filleul du Roi de France». Essai d'analyse et d'étude comparative." In: Cahiers d'études africaines, vol. 12, n°45, 1972. pp. 109-130. [DOI:];