Fairy Tale Facts: 12 Dancing Princesses

I’ve decided to start a new series! As I was working on my Evolution of Fairy Tales series, I realized that there are a lot of fairy tales that aren’t well known or haven’t changed too much since their appearance. So I’m going to use this new series to highlight these stories, as well as recommend adaptations I really like. I’ll start with ones I know, but if you have any you’d like me to highlight, let me know! I’m always on the lookout for new stories to enjoy.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses


What’s it About?

The Twelve Dancing Princesses is a German fairy tale, written by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. The story tells of twelve sisters, daughters of a king, who have a secret. They sleep in the same room and every morning their dancing slippers are worn through. The king, tired of paying for new shoes constantly, offers a reward to any man who can find out how the shoes get destroyed within three days and three nights. Many men, including princes, try, but all fail. A soldier, returning from war, decides to try his luck. On his way to the castle, he meets an old woman who gives him a cloak of invisibility (like in Harry Potter!) and some advice; he should not eat or drink anything the princesses offer. He arrives and settles in. When the princess offer the soldier wine before bed, he pretends to drink it and convinces the princesses he’s fallen asleep. He follows them, having donned the invisibility cloak, through a secret door to an enchanted forest. The princesses dance the night away while the soldier collects evidence. The same thing happens the next two nights and on his last day, the soldier presents the evidence to the King. The king happily offers the soldier the chance to marry any of his daughters and become his heir.

Fun Fact #1

In the early version of this story, it seems that the princesses enjoy their nightly escapades. Many of the adaptations I’ve read attribute their visits to the enchanted forest to a curse. It makes a little more sense to me. Some writers even go so far as to use magic to prevent the princesses from telling anyone.

Fun Fact #2

The twelve princesses meet twelve princes in the forest. In some versions, the princes are also cursed or enchanted. In other, the princes are…not quite human.

Fun Fact #3

In my research, I found a similar Scottish tale called Kate Crackernuts. It takes the reverse view; Kate, a princess, is trying to discover how to break a curse placed on her sister when she meets a prince, cursed to dance all night. She breaks both curses and marries the prince.

If You’re Interested…

I’ve come across two fantastic books that use The Twelve Dancing Princesses as inspiration; Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George and Entwined by Heather Dixon.

What other fairy tales should I cover here?

Until next time, fellow wonderers!

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