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The Three Enchanted Princes facts for kids

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The Three Enchanted Princes or The Three Animal Kings (Neapolitan: Li tre rri anemale; Italian: I tre re animale) is an Italian literary fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile in his 1634 work, the Pentamerone. It is Aarne-Thompson-Uther index ATU 552, "The Girls who married animals". At the end of the tale, the prince's brothers-in-law help him in defeating the dragon (or sorcerer, or ogre).


The king of Green Bank had three beautiful daughters. The king of Fair Meadows had three sons, who had been transformed into a falcon, a stag, and a dolphin; these sons loved the three daughters, but the king would not marry them to animals. The sons summoned all the animals of their kind and made war until the king yielded. They were married, and the queen gave each of her daughters a ring so they could recognize one another.

After the wedding, the queen gave birth to a son, Tittone. One day, she lamented that she never heard what happened to her daughters. Tittone set out to find them. He found the eldest with the falcon husband; she hid him and persuaded her husband to let him visit. He stayed for a time, and the falcon gave him a feather when he set out to find the other sisters. After a time, he found the second sister, and her husband the stag made him welcome, and when he left, gave him some of its hair. He found the third sister, and her husband the dolphin made him welcome and gave him some scales when he left.

Returning, he found a maiden captive in a tower, where a dragon slept, and which was surrounded by a lake. She begged him to save her. He threw down the feather, hairs, and scales, and his brothers-in-law appeared. The falcon summoned griffins to carry her to freedom; when the dragon woke, the stag summoned lions, bears, and other animals to tear it to pieces; the dolphin had waves engulf the tower to destroy it. This freed the brothers-in-law from their enchanted shapes, and they returned with their brides to their own parents, and Tittone returned to his with his bride.


There are variants where the girls' father is the one that gives away the daughters to the animals, and their brother, born years later, goes after them. In other variants, the princesses and the prince are born in the same generation, and it is the brother who weds his sisters to the animals.

The second variation lies in the brothers-in-law: usually, there are three animals, one terrestrial, a second aerial and the third aquatic, as in Musäus's version (respectively, a bear, a falcon and a giant fish). In the famous Russian version Marya Morevna, the husbands-to-be are a falcon, an eagle and a raven. In Czech fairy tale film The Prince and the Evening Star, the prince marries his sisters to the Sun, the Moon and the Wind, who are princes or kings, as per the original tale by author Bozena Nemcova.

Russian folklorist Alexander Afanasyev, based on comparative analysis of Slavic folkloric traditions, stated that the eagle, the falcon and the raven (or crow), in Slavic versions, are connected to weather phenomena, like storm, rain, wind. He also saw a parallel between the avian suitors from the tale Marya Morevna with the suitors from other Slavic folktales, where they are the Sun, the Moon, the Thunder and the Wind.


W. R. Halliday attempted a reconstruction of the supposedly original form of the tale, dubbed "The Magic Brothers-in-law", which incorporates the marriage to animals or other creatures, and the fight against an adversary whose soul is located outside his body ("Ogre's life in an egg"). Professor Susie Hoogasian-Villa seemed to concur that Halliday's reconstruction is the original form.

Professor Karel Horálek mentioned that tale type AaTh 552 ("specially in Slavic variants") shows the motif of the hero opening, against his wife's orders, a door or the dungeon and liberating a Giant or Ogre that kills him.

On the other hand, it has been suggested that the tale type ATU 552 may have been derived from an original form that closely resembles ATU 554, "The Grateful Animals". In this transition, the animals helpers have changed into brothers-in-law.


Professor Stith Thompson commented that, apart from two ancient literary versions (Musäus and Giambattista Basile), the tale is also widespread all over Europe. W. R. Halliday suggested the tale is "characteristic of the Balkan states and the Near East".



Apart from Basile's literary work, the tale is attested in Italian folktale compilations, with seven variants (AT 552 and AT 552A), according to a 20th-century inquiry, Other variants were collected by 19th century folklorists: "The Fair Fiorita" (La bella Fiorita), by Domenico Comparetti; Lu re di li setti muntagni d'oru and Li tri figghi obbidienti by Giuseppe Pitrè; Von der schönen Cardia, by Laura Gonzenbach; Lu Bbastunélle, by Gennaro Finnamore; La bella del Mondo, by Antonio de Nino; Die vier Königskinder, by Hermann Knust.

In De Nino's version, the sisters are married to the "Vento Maggiore", the sirocco and the sun, while in Gonzenbach's they are married to the king of ravens, the king of "the wild animals" and the king of birds. In another variant, titled La Bella di Setti Veli, collected by Letterio Di Francia, a queen has three daughters that are married to the sun, the wind and the mist.


The most representative version of the tale type ATU 552 is Marya Morevna, or its variant The Three Sons-in-Law.

Apart from the story about Koschei, the Deathless and Marya Morevna (both present in the same variant), Russian folktale compilations attest similar tales about human maidens marrying either animals or personifications of nature (sun, wind, storm, etc.). For instance, the tale The Sun, The Moon and Crow Crowson or Sun, Moon and Raven Ravenson. In another variant by Alexander Afanasyev, Fedor Tugarin and Anastasia the Beautiful, prince Fedor Tugarin weds his sisters to the wind, the hail and the thunder. Alexander Afanasyev saw a parallel between versions where the raven or crow is the last suitor and variants where it is the wind, and suggested that they both were equated.

Another tale was compiled by author A. A. Erlenwein, which was translated by Angelo de Gubernatis in his Florilegio with the name Vaniúsha, where the sisters marry a bear, an iron-nosed bird ("uccello dal naso di ferro") and a pike ("luccio"). The "bird with iron beak" appears to be a creature that inhabits several Slavic folktales.

Russian folklorist Alexander Afanasyev mentioned the existence of an old Russian tale titled "Сказку об Иване Белом" (Skazky ov Ivanye Byelom; "The Tale of Ivan, the White"), where the prince weds his sisters to three magical suitors: the Thunder, the Rain and the Wind. They also help him by teaching Ivan magical abilities related to their elements, which allow the prince to command the destructive aspects of the rain, the thunder and the wind.

In another Russian variant, "Иванъ царевичъ и Марья Маревна" ("Ivan Tsarevich and Marya Marevna"), collected by Ivan Khudyakov (ru), the young Ivan Tsarevich takes his sisters for a walk in the garden, when, suddenly, three whirlwinds capture the ladies. Three years later, the Tsarevich intends to court princess Marya Morevna, when, in his travels, he finds three old men, who reveal themselves as the whirlwinds and assume an avian form (the first a raven, the second an eagle and the third a falcon). After a series of adventures, Ivan Tsarevich and Marya Moreva marry and she gives him a silver key and warns him never to open its respective door. He does so and finds a giant snake chained to the wall.

Eastern Europe

In The Story of Argilius and the Flame-King, the King and Queen wish to marry their three daughters to their only brother, to keep the kingdom intact. Prince Argilius (hu), in defiance of their parents' wishes, marries his sisters to the Sun-king, the Wind-king and the Moon-king. The prince then journeys to find his own bride, Kavadiska. They marry and his wife warns not to open the last chamber in their castle while she is away. Argilius disobeys and releases Holofernes, the Flame-King. The translation indicated a "Slavonic" origin. However, W. Henry Jones, in his notes to a book of Magyar folktales by Janos Kriza, gave a summary of the original tale, Zauberhelene, and pointed as its primary source a collection of Hungarian fairy tales by Count Máilath.

The Norwegian translation of the tale, Trold-Helene, gave the brothers-in-law's names as Solkongen (Sun-King), Stormkongen (Storm-King) and Maanekongen (Moon-King).


Jeremiah Curtin collected an Irish variant titled The Weaver's Son and the Giant of the White Hill, where a poor family "sells" their daughters to three noblemen for "their price in gold/silver/copper". Years later, their youngest brother visits each of the sisters and is given a "a bit of wool from the ram, a bit of fin from the salmon, and a feather from the eagle".


French historian Robert Darnton cites, in his book The Great Cat Massacre, a burlesque narrative of a peasant couple marrying their daughters off to a wolf, a fox, a hare and a pig.

A variant from Brittany was collected by Paul Sébillot, titled Le Château suspendu dans les airs (English: "The Castle that hangs in the air"). The brothers-in-law are the King of the Birds, King of the Fishes and King of the Rats and Mice.


German author Johann Karl August Musäus wrote a literary treatment of the tale type in his Volksmärchen der Deutschen, with the title Die Bücher der Chronika der drei Schwestern ("The Book of the Chronicles of the Three Sisters"). The tale was later published as The Chronicles of the Three Sisters, Reinald, the Wonder-Child, or The Chronicles of the Three Sisters and The Enchanted Forest.

19th century theologue Johann Andreas Christian Löhr wrote a version of the tale, titled Reinhald das Wunderkind, where the sisters are called Wulfheid, Adelheid and Bertha, married, respectively, to a bear, an "Aar" (a dated or poetic German word for eagle) and a giant fish (called a behemoth by the father).

The Brothers Grimm collected, in the very first edition of their Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1812) the tale Die drei Schwestern ("The Three Sisters"), where the maidens are betrothed to a bear, an eagle and a generic fish due to their father's gambling. The tale, previously KHM 82, was later withdrawn from the collection.

Louis Curtze collected a variant from Dieringhausen, in Germany, titled Reinhold, das Wunderkind. The name is quite similar to the main character of Musäus's version, whose name was translated as "Rinaldo, the son of wonder".

Heinrich Pröhle collected the tale Bärenheid, Adelheid und Wallfild, the sisters' names, which mirror the animals they will be married to: respectively, Bären (English: "bear"), Adler (English: "eagle") and Wallfische (English: "whale").

Gustav F. Meyer published a version titled De dree verwünschenen Prinzen, in the 1909 edition of Heimat. Gustav Meyer referred, in his annotations, to Basile's, Musäus's and Grimm's versions.

Ernst Meier published a Swabian version titled Donner, Blitz und Wetter (English: "Thunder, Lightning and Weather"). Meier interpreted the characters of the meteorological phenomena as probably the remnants of ancient deities.


Svend Grundtvig collected a Danish variant titled The Wishing-Box (Ønskedaasen): Hans, the son of a poor peasant, receives from his father a wishing-box his father was given by a sorcerer, in exchange for Hans's older sisters. The wishing-box contains a magical being that must serve the owner of the box. In his journeys, he meets his sisters' husbands: three princes cursed into animal forms (wild bear, eagle and fish).


August Leskien collected a variant in Lithuania ("Von dem Königssohn, der auszog, um seine drei Schwestern zu suchen"), where the animals are a falcon, a griffin and an eagle.


There are two Portuguese variants: What Came of Picking Flowers (Cravo, Rosa e Jasmim), by Teophilo Braga, where the animals are the king of birds and the king of fishes, and A Torre da Babylonia, by Adolpho Coelho, where the brothers-in-law are the king of fishes, the king of "leões do mar" (sea lions) and the king of birds.


In the Hungarian variant A holló, medve és hal sógora or Der Schwager von Rabe, Bär und Fisch ("The Raven', The Bear' and the Fish's Brother-in-Law") by Elisabet Róna-Sklarek, the animals are a raven, a bear and a fish.

In another Hungarian variant, A Szélördög ("The Wind Devil"), a dying king's last wish is for his sons to wed their sisters to whoever passes by their castle. The youngest prince fulfills his father's wishes by marrying his sisters to a beggar, a wolf, a serpent and a gerbil. Later on, the prince marries a foreign princess, opens a door in her palace and releases the Wind Devil.

In the tale Királyfi Jankó ("The King's Son, Jankó"), Jankó journeys with a talking horse to visit his brothers-in-law: a toad, the "saskirá" (Eagle King) and the "hollókirá" (Raven King). They advice Jankó on how to find "the world's most beautiful woman", who Jankó intends to marry. He finds her, they marry, and he moves to her kingdom. When Jankó explores the castle, he finds a room where a many-headed dragon is imprisoned with golden chains. The prince helps the dragon regain his strength and it escapes, taking the prince's wife with him.

In the variant A szalmakirály, the king's youngest son convinces his father to let his three sisters stroll in the palace's gardens. Moments later, the sisters are abducted by the Sun, the Moon and the Wind. The king summons a council to decide the fate of his youngest; the monarch, however, spares his child's life and order his exile.

Czech Republic

In a Moravian tale, The Bear, the Eagle and the Fish, translated by Josef Baudis from a collection of folktales by František Elpl (O medvědu, orlu a rybě), a bankrupt count is forced to wed his daughters to a bear, an eagle and a fish. Years later, the ladies' brother visits them and gains three hairs from the bear, three feathers from the eagle and three fish scales as aid to defeat the magician who cursed the brothers-in-law into animal forms.

Author Božena Němcová collected a Czech fairy tale, O Slunečníku, Měsíčníku a Větrníku, where the prince's sisters are married to the Sun, the Moon and the Wind. A retelling of Nemcova's version, titled O slunečníkovi, měsíčníkovi a větrníkovi, named the prince Silomil, who marries the unnamed warrior princess and frees a king with magical powers from his wife's dungeon.

Czech writer Josef Košín z Radostova (cs) published the story of O medvědu, orlu a rybě ("About the bear, the eagle and the fish"): Prince Radoslav drowns in debt and is forced to relocate with his family to a cabin in the mountains. He meets a bear, an eagle and a fish and gives his three daughters to each one, receiving a hefty sum of money in exchange. Years later, prince Radoslav's wife gives birth to a son, Miloň, who swears to find his sisters.

In another Moravian tale, Černokněžník ("The Sorcerer"), an evil wizard tries to force a marriage to a king's daughter. After she refuses, the sorcerer casts a curse on her brothers: they shall become a bear, an eagle and a whale and their realms shall become, respectively, a forest, the rocks of a desert and a lake. Some time later, the neighbouring king is forced to marry his daughters to the animal princes. Years later, his youngest son vows to break the curse and save both kingdoms.


Author Bozena Nemcova also collected a very similar Slovenian variant of the Czech fairy tale, titled O Slunečníku, Měsíčníku, Větrníku, o krásné Ulianě a dvou tátošíkách. The princesses are married to the Sun, the Moon and the Wind, and prince journeys until he finds the beautiful warrior princess Uliane. They marry. Later, she gives him the keys to her castle and tells him not to open the thirteenth door. He disobeys her orders and opens the door: there he finds a giant serpent named Šarkan.

In another Slovenian tale, O třech zakletých knížatech ("About the three cursed princes"), the rich peasant loses his fortune in gambling and is forced to give his daughters to a bear, an eagle and a fish in order to gain some economic respite. Years later, a son is born to him and his wife, named Radovid. He visits his sisters and discovers that the bear, the eagle and the fish were once human princes, cursed into animal forms by an evil wizard. At the end of the tale, the hero defeats the wizard and rescues a princess (the princes' sister) from a coffin in the wizard's cave.


A rather lengthy Slovak version, Tri zakljate kňježatá ("The Three Enchanted Princes"), was collected by Slovak writer Ján Francisci-Rimavský (Johann Rimauski).

Another Slovak writer, Pavol Dobšinský, was reported to have collected another variant. In this variant, Tri zakliate kniežatá ("The Three Cursed Princes"), a king surrenders his daughters to a bear, an eagle and a fish. Years later, a prince is born to the king. He decides to visit his sisters and, after hearing the whole story of his cursed brothers-in-law, decides to rescue their sister, trapped in a deathlike state, from the clutches of the devil.


Karel Jaromír Erben collected a Croatian variant titled Královic a Víla ("The Tsar's Son and the Víla"). In this tale, the Wind-King, the Sun-King and the Moon-King (in that order) wish to marry the tsar's daughters. After that, the Kralovic visits his brothers-in-law and is gifted a bottle of "water of death" and a bottle of "water of life". In his travels, Královic comes across a trench full of soldiers' heads. He uses the bottles on a head to discover what happened and learns it was the working of a Víla. Later, he meets the Víla and falls in love with her. They marry and she gives the keys to her palace and a warning: never to open the last door. Královic disobeys and meets a dangerous prisoner: král Oheň, the King of Fire, who escapes and captures Víla.


In a Serbian variant, Bash Tchelik, or Real Steel, the prince accidentally releases Bash Tchelik from his prison, who kidnaps the prince's wife. He later travels to his sisters' kingdoms and discovers them married, respectively, to the king of dragons, the king of eagles and the king of falcons. The tale was translated into English, first collected by British author Elodie Lawton Mijatovich with the name Bash-Chalek, or, True Steel, and later as Steelpacha.

In another Serbian variant published by Serbian educator Atanasije Nikolić, Путник и црвени ветар or Der Wanderer und der Rote Wind ("The Wanderer and the Red Wind"), at their father's dying request, three brothers marry their three sisters to the first passers-by (in this case, three animals). The brothers then camp out in the woods and kill three dragons. The youngest finds a man in the woods rising the sun and moon with a ball of yarn. He finds a group of robbers who want to invade the tsar's palace. The prince goes on first, kills the robbers and saves a princess from a dragon. They marry and he opens a forbidden room where "The Red Wind" is imprisoned. The Red Wind kidnaps his wife and he goes after her, with the help of his animal brothers-in-law. Slavicist Karel Horálek indicated it was a variant of the Turkish tale Der Windteufel ("The Wind Devil").


Johann Georg von Hahn collected a version titled Der Schwager des Löwen, des Tigers und des Adlers from Negades, in Epiros. The animals are a lion, a tiger and an eagle. The tale was translated as The Lion, The Tiger and The Eagle by Reverend Edmund Martin Geldart.

French Hellenist Émile Legrand collected a variant titled Le Dracophage.

A variant from Crete, Die Töchter des Königs Tsun Matsun, was collected by Paul Kretschmer. In this, the brother-in-law are the king of tigers and lions and the king of birds.

Richard McGillivrey Dawkins collected two variants from Ulaghátsh, in Cappadocia, which he dubbed The Magic Brothers-in-Law: in the first, they are married to dervishes; in the second, the girls are married to devs.


In an Albanian tale collected by Auguste Dozon (Les Trois Fréres et Les Trois Soeurs), the sisters are married to the sun, the moon and the south wind. It was also collected in German language by linguist August Leskien as Die Geschichte von den drei Brüdern, den drei Schwestern und dem halbeisernen Mann, and into English with the title The Three Brothers and the Three Sisters by Lucy Mary Jane Garnett.


In a Georgian variant, sourced as Mingrelian, Kazha-ndii, the youngest prince gives his sisters as brides to three "demis". They later help him to rescue his bride from the antagonist.

Causasus Mountains

In a version in Avar language, by Anton Schiefner (Der schwarze Nart), the animals are a wolf, a hawk and a falcon.


In an Armenian variant collected by Frederic Macler, Le Conte de L'Imberbe Mystérieux, the suitors are described as "demons" in the form of fox, a bear and a wolf.


In the Romanian tale Crincu, az erdei vadász ("Crincu, the Forest Hunter"), Crincu's father orders him and his brothers to make a funeral pyre with 99 wooden carts and 99 straw carts. Crincu goes into the woods, meets personifications of the twilight, midnight and dawn and ties each of them with a rope to a tree, so that the day cannot complete the daily cycle. He then finds some giants who will lend him fire to torch the pyre, in exchange for his help in capturing the daughters of the Green King. Crincu enters the Green King's palace through the chimney, waits for the giants to appear and beheads them. The youth, then, takes the ring from the youngest's finger (still asleep) and returns to his brothers. The trio also marries their sisters to an eagle, a kestrel and a wolf, whom the narrative describes as táltos (a magician, a sorcerer or a shaman). The Green King learns of the deed and gives his daughters to Crincu and his brothers, but a creature named Pogány kills Crincu and takes his bride. The eagle brother-in-law resurrects him. Crincu then visits his sister, is armed with a magical horse and weapons and tries to rescue his bride, but is killed for his efforts. The second brother-in-law, the kestrel, helps him this time. Crincu tries again, but is killed a third time. The wolf brother-in-law brings him to life this time and advises him to seek a job with the one hundred year-old witch that lives in the depths of Hell and gain her horse in order to defeat Pogány once and for all. Crincu's brothers-in-law help him in the witch's tasks and she lets him choose a horse: the lamest one of the harras and the younger brother of Pogány's mount.



In a Canadian tale, The Boy and the Robbers' Magical Booty, the brothers-in-law are normal humans, but each one of them gives the hero a fish's scale, a feather and a piece of wool to summon animals to his aid in order to defeat the Giant of the Sea.

United States

A version collected from Armenian descent populations in Detroit shows the marriage of the sisters to three dwarves. In a second, unpublished variant, the sisters are married to a bear, a lion and an eagle.

Professor Stith Thomson pointed that a version was found from a Micmac source and suggested that this tale had possibly migrated from a French source. The tale was titled The Magical Coat, Shoes, and Sword and the three brothers-in-law are a whale, a giant sheep and a gray tame duck, and they help him fight a magician that abducts the wives of the local townspeople and keeps them in his cave. The collector noted the great similarities of it with European fairy tales. In another version of this Micmac story, The Prince who went seeking his Sisters, the brothers-in-law approach the king in human form and only assume animal shapes when they are hunting.

In a variant collected from German descendants in Pennsylvania, the tale begins in media res with the mother revealing to her son the fate of his three sisters.


A version of the tale is attested in Brazilian folklore, collected by Silvio Romero in Sergipe as O bicho Manjaléo and translated as The Beast Slayer by writer Elsie Spicer Eells. The animal brothers-in-law are referred as King of Fishes, King of Rams and King of Pigeons.


Cape Verde

Anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons collected in Cape Verde a variant The Three Brothers-in-Law: his life in the egg, where the hero is given a feather, a scale and a horn to summon the animals to his aid.


Middle East

In a Middle Eastern variant, a king orders his three sons to marry their three sisters, and their brothers-in-law are a wolf named Dêverasch, an eagle (described as "king of birds") and a bird named "Ssîmer" (simurgh).


Ignacz Kúnos translated a version collected in Istanbul, titled Der Windteufel or The Storm Fiend, where an evil wind spirit carries away the hero's sisters, and later they are married to a lion, a tiger and the "Padishah of the Peris", the emerald anka.


Professors Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaan collected a peculiar Palestinian version, from an old storyteller in Ramallah. This version (Gazele) is peculiar in the sense that is combined with ATU 300 "The Dragon-Slayer" and ATU 302 "The Ogre's Life in the Egg".


Professor Dean Fansler collected two variants from the archipelago: Juan and his Adventures and Pedro and the Giants. In the first story, Juan finds his sisters married to the king of lions, the king of eagles and king of fishes. In the second, two giants marry Pedro's sisters and help him gain a princess for wife.


West Africa

In a Hausa story, a couple has four young daughters that disappear. A son is born later and, when he grows older, seeks his sisters and finds them safe and sound, and married to a bull, a ram, a dog and a hawk. Each of the animals gives a piece of hair or plumage to the boy, if he needs their assistance.

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