Gender-Flipped Tales: Toads and Diamonds

Toads and DiamondsThe Tale:
There was once upon a time a widower who had two sons. The eldest was so much like him in the face and humor that whoever looked upon the son saw the father. They were both so disagreeable and proud that there was no living with them.

The youngest, who was the very picture of his mother for courtesy and sweetness of temper, was withal one of the most handsome boys ever seen. As people naturally love their own likeness, this father even doted on his eldest son and at the same time had a horrible aversion for the youngest–he made him eat in the kitchen and work continually.

Among other things, this poor child was forced twice a day to draw water above a mile and a-half off the house, and bring home a pitcher full of it. One day, as he was at this fountain, there came to him a poor man, who begged of him to let him drink.

“Oh! ay, with all my heart, Sir,” said this handsome little boy; and rinsing immediately the pitcher, he took up some water from the clearest place of the fountain, and gave it to him, holding up the pitcher all the while, that he might drink the easier.

The good man, having drunk, said to him:

“You are so very handsome, my dear, so good and so mannerly, that I cannot help giving you a gift.” For this was a fairy, who had taken the form of a poor country man, to see how far the civility and good manners of this handsome boy would go. “I will give you for a gift,” continued the Fairy, “that, at every word you speak, there shall come out of your mouth either a flower or a jewel.”

When this handsome boy came home his father scolded him for staying so long at the fountain.

“I beg your pardon, poppa,” said the poor boy, “for not making more haste.”

And in speaking these words there came out of his mouth two roses, two pearls, and two diamonds.

Diamonds Image“What is it I see there?” said the father, quite astonished. “I think I see pearls and diamonds come out of the boy’s mouth! How happens this, child?”

This was the first time he had ever called him child.

The poor creature told him frankly all the matter, not without dropping out infinite numbers of diamonds.

“In good faith,” cried the father, “I must send my child thither. Come hither, Farris; look what comes out of thy brother’s mouth when he speaks. Wouldst not thou be glad, my dear, to have the same gift given thee? Thou hast nothing else to do but go and draw water out of the fountain, and when a certain poor man asks you to let him drink, to give it to him very civilly.”

“It would be a very fine sight indeed,” said this ill-bred brat, “to see me go draw water.”

“You shall go, rake!” said the father; “and this minute.”

So away he went, but grumbling all the way, taking with him the best silver tankard in the house.

He was no sooner at the fountain than he saw coming out of the wood a gentleman most gloriously dressed, who came up to him, and asked to drink. This was, you must know, the very fairy who appeared to his brother, but now had taken the air and dress of a prince, to see how far this boy’s rudeness would go.

“Am I come hither,” said the proud, saucy one, “to serve you with water, pray? I suppose the silver tankard was brought purely for your lordship, was it? However, you may drink out of it, if you have a fancy.”

“You are not over and above mannerly,” answered the Fairy, without putting himself in a passion. “Well, then, since you have so little breeding, and are so disobliging, I give you for a gift that at every word you speak there shall come out of your mouth a snake or a toad.”

Toad ClipartSo soon as his father saw him coming he cried out:

“Well, son?”

“Well, father?” answered the pert rake, throwing out of his mouth two vipers and two toads.

“Oh! mercy,” cried the father; “what is it I see? Oh! it is that wretch his bother who has occasioned all this; but he shall pay for it”; and immediately he ran to beat him. The poor child fled away from him, and went to hide himself in the forest, not far from thence.

The Queen’s daughter, then on her return from hunting, met him, and seeing him so very handsome, asked him what he did there alone and why he cried.

“Alas! madam, my poppa has turned me out of doors.”

The Queen’s daughter, who saw five or six pearls and as many diamonds come out of his mouth, desired him to tell her how that happened. He thereupon told her the whole story; and so the Queen’s daughter fell in love with him, and, considering herself that such a gift was worth more than any marriage portion, conducted her to the palace of the Queen her mother, and there married him.

As for the brother, he made himself so much hated that his own father turned him off; and the miserable wretch, having wandered about a good while without finding anybody to take him in, went to a corner of the wood, and there died.

by Charles Perrault (from the version in Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)

Thoughts:

This story had some interesting problems that I didn’t expect crop up in gender-flipping it. The two words that really caused issue were “minx” and “hussy”. There really aren’t male versions of those words that mean anywhere near the same thing or have anything like the same implications. For “minx” I ended up substituting “brat” because the usage of it largely implied the girl was baiting her mother and trying to weasel her way out of doing anything like work, even if it might mean a fortune in forever spitting up diamonds, which sounds rather bratty to mean (and since the word is pretty gender neutral, it was an easier jump than finding a truly masculine word). “Hussy” was more of a problem. Both of the times it was used in the story it was used when the implications of the word would definitely stand out. The problem is, there isn’t a word that I could find in the English language that implies the same things about a man’s sexual and moral looseness (if anyone knows of one, please let me know!). The best I could come up with was “rake”, which is really kind of the opposite, since a “hussy” generally is seen as giving in to everyone else’s sexual desire while a “rake” is the pursuer, the womanizer, which is not only the other side of the coin but also far more permissible in most societies.

Princess RidingThe story about the Fairy’s gifts themselves was little changed by the gender flip, although a boy who drops roses from his lips every time he speaks is probably considered less appealing than a girl. I considered leaving the descriptor “pretty” for the hero, since it is used for males as well as females, but eventually decided against it since it sounded rather odd and ended up changing all the “pretty”s and “beautiful”s to “handsome”s. The King’s son of course changed to a Queen’s daughter, who still sounds pretty money hungry and probably not terribly in love to me (but that might just be my cynical side coming out). I have a feeling we’ll see a lot of Queen’s daughters and kingdoms run primarily by queens throughout this experiment. This one works out pretty reasonably. I don’t see anything here I couldn’t believe from the gender-flipped story. It’s unusual, but not out of the question. I have a feeling that won’t always be the case!

3 Comments

  1. Scarybug said,

    October 9, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    I’d say use weasel instead of minx. The etymology fits (minx is an archaic form of mink, which is in the weasel family) And you already said he was trying to weasel out of something.

    Rake is an excellent flip of “hussy”, I’d say. Rake is still somewhat derogatory in most uses.

  2. Rosepixie said,

    October 9, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Weasel is an interesting suggestion. I hadn’t even thought of that. It still doesn’t carry the same kind of connotations that “minx” does, though, which is part of the problem. Still, I think it would be a very appropriate choice and I’ll keep it in mind in the future! Thanks!

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    November 1, 2011 at 4:30 am

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