This Norwegian fairy tale involves many typical aspects of fairy tales. It is a great example of the way fairy tales work.
The story of the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth
A farmer was wondering who kept trampling the grass of his favourite meadow at night.
He sent his three sons to investigate and keep watch. The two older sons fell asleep and could not find out anything. The youngest saw three white doves landing, shedding their plumage and turning into lovely maidens. While they danced he stole their plumages. Watching them dance he fell in love with one of the girls, who turned out to be a Princess.
The girls kept dancing until dawn and then searched frantically for their means of transportation. When they discovered him the lad enquired where they came from. They told him that they lived out of reach of humans in the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth and were a Princess and her attendants. He only gave their plumages back to them when a date for the wedding with the Princess was set.
He went back home but did not admit to having solved the puzzle. When the date for the marriage approached he asked his father for permission to host a big feast.
On the day of the feast a golden carriage pulled up in front of the farmhouse at midnight and the three beautiful maidens got out. After the ceremony and before dawn the three girls were eager to leave. The new bride explained that they were kept hostage by evil trolls and only rarely had the chance to get out.
Before they left the Princess gave the groom a golden ring to remember her by and her two attendants added two golden apples.
Soon after that the young lad left home to search for the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth where his beloved was kept hostage.
A long journey began
Three giants and three magic items
On his journey he first met two giants who were quarrelling over an heirloom of their father´s: A pair of 100-mile-boots. As they could not come to an understanding he convinced them that it was wise to give the boots to him.
Soon after that he stumbled over two more giants fighting over an inheritance of their father´s. This time he was rewarded with an invisible cloak.
The third time he met two quarrelling giants he acquired a magic sword: If you touch somebody with its tip he dies and if you touch him with the hilt he comes back to life.
He met three women who commanded the animal kingdom
With these three precious objects he reached a vast desert and met an ancient woman. He asked her nicely for shelter. She answered that he could stay because she has seen 12 oak forests wither and in all this time nobody treated her as kindly as he did. He inquired of the whereabouts of the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth. And she asked the animals of the earth that she commanded for information.
Sadly the animals couldn´t help and the woman sent him on to her older sister who ruled the fish. But the fish could not help either. This sister then sent him on to the third even older sister who was the ruler of the birds in the sky.
At first the birds also couldn´t help. But the phoenix arrived late and was totally exhausted from his long journey from the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth.
The last leg of his journey to the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth
The old woman commanded the phoenix to take the young man there. They flew a long time and three times the bird asked its passenger what he saw. At first he could only make out a blue cloud on the horizon, then a small speck inside the cloud and finally he could see the palace itself.
Three times proof to gain entrance
At midnight when the trolls were soundly asleep the prince knocked on the gates of the castle. First one of the Princess´ attendants came to see who was knocking. He gave her a golden apple as proof, then the second attendant came to whom he gave the second apple and finally the Princess herself came looking who could not believe that her new husband managed to find her. He gave her back the ring.
Overjoyed she let him in. When the sun was rising he told him to leave because the trolls would kill him if they found him.
Saving his bride and the whole kingdom
He left and put on his boots and cloak and waited at the gate with his sword in hand. As the trolls approached he killed them one by one before they could even get aware of him.
After freeing his bride he resurrected her father and the other relatives who had been killed by the trolls with the hilt of his magic sword. After this he and his wife happily ruled over the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth.
Rich imagery in the beautiful palace east of the sun and north of the earth
I am enchanted by this elaborate fairy tale. It has all the important ingredients of a good story: Adventure, evil, love, daring and success. It features a lot of the unique qualities the Fairy Tale Dimension offers:
1. The number three
The mystical number three is everywhere in this fairy tale: Three brothers, three maidens, three gifts, three pairs of giants, three magical objects, three old women, three sightings of the castle, three times proof until he is let in.
Three is a magical mythological number. We use it a lot because things that are counted in threes feel complete to us.
- We consider the third time we do something lucky
- In Christianity the holy trinity plays a big role
- Western music uses triads as base elements
The three stands for connection, integration and harmony
- The connection of body, soul and spirit
- Faith, love and hope
- liberty, equality and fraternity
Three is also the number of time
- Beginning, middle and end
- Birth, life and death
- Past, future and present
Three insignias of the ring bearer appear in this fairy tale
a. The ring
The young man carries a ring that opens the door to the castle for him. The ring bearer can open the doors for evolution of the Fairy Tale Dimension with her ring that enables her to change the blueprint.
b. The 100-mile-boots
are also part of the ring bearer´s gear, enabling her to get everywhere fast.
c. The cloak of invisibility
Is very helpful because the ring bearer is otherwise easily recognised; even when using disguises. The cloak shields all her energy and the ring bearer can wander around unseen.
2. Getting information:
In this fairy tale three groups of animals have their eyes and ears, fins and tales everywhere. In the Fairy Tale Dimension this is the role of the Shadows:
When they are not needed by their owners the Shadows have their own life: When they don´t cast a shadow they are free to roam. They are loyal to the ring bearer whose job is to make sure that the Fairy Tale Dimension keeps functioning well. Since the shadows are everywhere they know everything that is going on.
When there are feuds between countries or other upheavals it is very handy to have an intelligence organisation at one´s disposal.
In this tale resurrection from death is easily achieved with the help of the magic sword.
Death is not permanent in the Fairy Tale Dimension. Just by willing yourself to wake up again you can resurrect yourself as well as healing wounds instantly.
Graves therefore are only needed for playing. I imagine the Princess´s family in this tale were bored by having to lie in a tomb until they were allowed to play again.
4. Going on quests and achieving the impossible
Is an all time favourite in the Fairy Tale Dimension. The young farmer´s son on his quest is lucky to meet the right people. He is nice and unpretentious. He seems to feel secure in his own skin and determined not to give up no matter what. He starts his journey and has faith in himself because the alternative is sitting at home being sad. His assets are his considerable intelligence and his positive nature.
What can this fairy tale tell us today?
The young lad manages to achieve the impossible. We too face challenges that are beyond anything we are accustomed to: We have no idea how to cope with this climate change yet. In this situation it does not help to stay where we are and weep. We need intelligent creative people who are willing to do something about it.
We are not going to manage these challenges as individuals. We need to support each other as shown in this fairy tale by the connection of the number three. Many talents are needed. There is so much strength in connecting with others, trusting ourselves, trying new solutions, failing and trying again.
Thank you for making me aware of this wonderful fairy tale, Hans-Jürgen.
Do you have a favourite fairy tale that I have not featured yet? Write me in the comments, send me an e-mail or join my facebook group.
Here you can read the long version of the fairy tale.
I have not found much about this tale in my usual sources. There is another Norwegian fairy tale however where a young woman saves a prince from a wicked stepmother called East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
My reader Julia knew that the fairy tale inspired the Norwegian band A-HA for their album East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Thank you for the tip.
© Inge Schumacher