Gender-Flipped Classics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

I realize that I haven’t posted in quite some time and I’m sorry about that, however now I’m back. Today I’m posting a gender-flipped chapter from L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I have done this with fairy tales in the past, but I thought that it might be interesting to do it with pieces of some longer works as well. It’s an interesting exercise to do on all kinds of works, from picture books to poetry to novels, but I’ve been trying to carefully stick to things that are in the public domain to post here. So even though I highly recommend trying out Maxine’s adventures with the Wild Things or Hannah Potter’s battles against dark witches, I’m not going to be able to post those for you. I’m not including a commentary on this one, but I would love to hear what your reactions were after reading it!

Chapter 16: The Magic Art of the Great Humbug

Next morning the Scarecrow said to her friends:

“Congratulate me. I am going to Oz to get my brains at last. When I return I shall be as other women are.”

“I have always liked you as you were,” said Donald simply.

“It is kind of you to like a Scarecrow,” she replied. “But surely you will think more of me when you hear the splendid thoughts my new brain is going to turn out.” Then she said good-bye to them all in a cheerful voice and went to the Throne Room, where she rapped upon the door.

“Come in,” said Oz.

The Scarecrow went in and found the little woman sitting down by the window, engaged in deep thought.

“I have come for my brains,” remarked the Scarecrow, a little uneasily.

“Oh, yes; sit down in that chair, please,” replied Oz. “You must excuse me for taking your head off, but I shall have to do it in order to put your brains in their proper place.”

“That’s all right,” said the Scarecrow. “You are quite welcome to take my head off, as long as it will be a better one when you put it on again.”

So the Wizard unfastened her head and emptied out the straw. Then she entered the back room and took up a measure of bran, which she mixed with a great many pins and needles. Having shaken them together thoroughly, she filled the top of the Scarecrow’s head with the mixture and stuffed the rest of the space with straw, to hold it in place.

When she had fastened the Scarecrow’s head on her body again she said to her, “Hereafter you will be a great woman, for I have given you a lot of bran-new brains.”

The Scarecrow was both pleased and proud at the fulfillment of her greatest wish, and having thanked Oz warmly she went back to her friends.

Donald looked at her curiously. Her head was quite bulged out at the top with brains.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“I feel wise indeed,” she answered earnestly. “When I get used to my brains I shall know everything.”

“Why are those needles and pins sticking out of your head?” asked the Tin Woodwoman.

“That is proof that she is sharp,” remarked the Lion.

“Well, I must go to Oz and get my heart,” said the Woodwoman. So she walked to the Throne Room and knocked at the door.

“Come in,” called Oz, and the Woodwoman entered and said, “I have come for my heart.”

“Very well,” answered the little woman. “But I shall have to cut a hole in your breast, so I can put your heart in the right place. I hope it won’t hurt you.”

“Oh, no,” answered the Woodwoman. “I shall not feel it at all.”

So Oz brought a pair of tinsmith’s shears and cut a small, square hole in the left side of the Tin Woodwoman’s breast. Then, going to a chest of drawers, she took out a pretty heart, made entirely of silk and stuffed with sawdust.

“Isn’t it a beauty?” she asked.

“It is, indeed!” replied the Woodwoman, who was greatly pleased. “But is it a kind heart?”

“Oh, very!” answered Oz. She put the heart in the Woodwoman’s breast and then replaced the square of tin, soldering it neatly together where it had been cut.

“There,” said she; “now you have a heart that any woman might be proud of. I’m sorry I had to put a patch on your breast, but it really couldn’t be helped.”

“Never mind the patch,” exclaimed the happy Woodwoman. “I am very grateful to you, and shall never forget your kindness.”

“Don’t speak of it,” replied Oz.

Then the Tin Woodwoman went back to her friends, who wished her every joy on account of her good fortune.

The Lion now walked to the Throne Room and knocked at the door.

“Come in,” said Oz.

“I have come for my courage,” announced the Lion, entering the room.

“Very well,” answered the little woman; “I will get it for you.”

She went to a cupboard and reaching up to a high shelf took down a square green bottle, the contents of which she poured into a green-gold dish, beautifully carved. Placing this before the Cowardly Lion, who sniffed at it as if she did not like it, the Wizard said:


“What is it?” asked the Lion.

“Well,” answered Oz, “if it were inside of you, it would be courage. You know, of course, that courage is always inside one; so that this really cannot be called courage until you have swallowed it. Therefore I advise you to drink it as soon as possible.”

The Lion hesitated no longer, but drank till the dish was empty.

“How do you feel now?” asked Oz.

“Full of courage,” replied the Lion, who went joyfully back to her friends to tell them of her good fortune.

Oz, left to herself, smiled to think of her success in giving the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodwoman and the Lion exactly what they thought they wanted. “How can I help being a humbug,” she said, “when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can’t be done? It was easy to make the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Woodwoman happy, because they imagined I could do anything. But it will take more than imagination to carry Donald back to Kansas, and I’m sure I don’t know how it can be done.”

Gender-Flipped Tales: Rumpelstiltskin

RumpelstiltskinThe Tale:

There was once upon a time a poor miller who had a very handsome son. Now it happened one day that she had an audience with the Queen, and in order to appear a person of some importance she told her that she had a son who could spin straw into gold. “Now that’s a talent worth having,” said the Queen to the miller; “if your son is as clever as you say, bring him to my palace to-morrow, and I’ll put him to the test.” When the boy was brought to her she led him into a room full of straw, gave him a spinning-wheel and spindle, and said: “Now set to work and spin all night till early dawn, and if by that time you haven’t spun the straw into gold you shall die.” Then she closed the door behind her and left him alone inside.

So the poor miller’s son sat down, and didn’t know what in the world he was to do. He hadn’t the least idea of how to spin straw into gold, and became at last so miserable that he began to cry. Suddenly the door opened, and in stepped a tiny little woman and said: “Good-evening, Master Miller-lad; why are you crying so bitterly?” “Oh!” answered the boy, “I have to spin straw into gold, and haven’t a notion how it’s done.” “What will you give me if I spin it for you?” asked the manikin. “My chain,” replied the boy. The little woman took the necklace, sat herself down at the wheel, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the bobbin was full. Then she put on another, and whir, whir, whir, the wheel went round three times, and the second too was full; and so it went on till the morning, when all the straw was spun away, and all the bobbins were full of gold. As soon as the sun rose the Queen came, and when she perceived the gold she was astonished and delighted, but her heart only lusted more than ever after the precious metal. She had the miller’s son put into another room full of straw, much bigger than the first, and bade him, if he valued his life, spin it all into gold before the following morning. The boy didn’t know what to do, and began to cry; then the door opened as before, and the tiny little woman appeared and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw into gold for you?” “The ring from my finger,” answered the boy. The manikin took the ring, and whir! round went the spinning-wheel again, and when morning broke she had spun all the straw into glittering gold. The Queen was pleased beyond measure at the sights but her greed for gold was still not satisfied, and she had the miller’s son brought into a yet bigger room full of straw, and said: “You must spin all this away in the night; but if you succeed this time you shall become my husband.” “He’s only a miller’s son, it’s true,” she thought; “but I couldn’t find a richer husband if I were to search the whole world over.” When the boy was alone the little woman appeared for the third time, and said: “What’ll you give me if I spin the straw for you once again?” “I’ve nothing more to give,” answered the boy. “Then promise me when you are King to give me your first child.” “Who knows what may not happen before that?” thought the miller’s son; and besides, he saw no other way out of it, so he promised the manikin what she demanded, and she set to work once more and spun the straw into gold. When the Queen came in the morning, and found everything as she had desired, she straightway made him her husband, and the miller’s son became a king.

Spinning WheelWhen a year had passed a beautiful daughter was born to him, and he thought no more of the little woman, till all of a sudden one day she stepped into his room and said: “Now give me what you promised.” The King was in a great state, and offered the little woman all the riches in his kingdom if she would only leave him the child. But the manikin said: “No, a living creature is dearer to me than all the treasures in the world.” Then the King began to cry and sob so bitterly that the little woman was sorry for him, and said: “I’ll give you three days to guess my name, and if you find it out in that time you may keep your child.”

Then the King pondered the whole night over all the names he had ever heard, and sent a messenger to scour the land, and to pick up far and near any names she could come across. When the little woman arrived on the following day he began with Kaspa, Melanie, Bella, and all the other names he knew, in a string, but at each one the manikin called out: “That’s not my name.” The next day he sent to inquire the names of all the people in the neighborhood, and had a long list of the most uncommon and extraordinary for the little woman when she made her appearance. “Is your name, perhaps, Sheepshanks Cruickshanks, Spindleshanks?” but she always replied: “That’s not my name.” On the third day the messenger returned and announced: “I have not been able to find any new names, but as I came upon a high hill round the corner of the wood, where the foxes and hares bid each other good night, I saw a little house, and in front of the house burned a fire, and round the fire sprang the most grotesque little woman, hopping on one leg and crying:

“To-morrow I brew, to-day I bake,
And then the child away I’ll take;
For little deems my royal game
That Rumpelstiltskin is my name!”

Rumpelstiltskin BowingYou may imagine the King’s delight at hearing the name, and when the little woman stepped in shortly afterward and asked: “Now, my lord King, what’s my name?” he asked first: “Is your name Cora?” “No.” “Is your name Hattie?” “No.” “Is your name perhaps, Rumpelstiltskin?” “Some demon has told you that, some demon has told you that!” screamed the little woman, and in her rage drove her right foot so far into the ground that it sank in up to her waist; then in a passion she seized the left foot with both hands and tore herself in two.

by The Brothers Grimm (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


I’m actually really pleased with the flipped version of this story. I actually like Rumpelstiltskin as a woman far more than as a man – spinning has always been a woman’s art, so it’s only fitting that a woman should know the secret of spinning straw into gold while a man should not. The other characters don’t change a whole lot in the flipping. The Queen doesn’t seem odd for the greed just as the King didn’t (repulsive, maybe, but not odd). Women boast as often as men do, so the Miller’s flip doesn’t seem out of place at all either. Why she would boast that her son excelled at something really only women usually do, who knows, but maybe she spoke before she really had time to think about it. As for the boy himself, well, who wouldn’t be distraught in that situation? I think he’s perfectly realistic. More than the girl, even, since he likely wouldn’t even know how to begin when put in front of a spinning wheel, whereas she would almost certainly know at least how it usually works and in her desperation try to spin the straw. Yes, I think this story works wonderfully well as a gender-flipped tale! This may even be the best one so far!

Gender-Flipped Tales: Jill and the Beanstalk

Milky-WhiteThe Tale:

There was once upon a time a poor widower who had an only daughter named Jill, and a cow named Milky-white. And all they had to live on was the milk the cow gave every morning, which they carried to the market and sold. But one morning Milky-white gave no milk and they didn’t know what to do.

“What shall we do, what shall we do?” said the widower, wringing his hands.

“Cheer up, father, I’ll go and get work somewhere,” said Jill.

“We’ve tried that before, and nobody would take you,” said her father; “we must sell Milky-white and with the money, start shop, or something.”

“All right, father,” says Jill; “it’s market-day today, and I’ll soon sell Milky-white, and then we’ll see what we can do.”

So she took the cow’s halter in her hand, and off she started. She hadn’t gone far when she met a funny-looking old woman, who said to her: “Good morning, Jill.”

“Good morning to you,” said Jill, and wondered how she knew her name.

“Well, Jill, and where are you off to?” said the woman.

“I’m going to market to sell our cow here.”

“Oh, you look the proper sort of maid to sell cows,” said the woman; “I wonder if you know how many beans make five.”

“Two in each hand and one in your mouth,” says Jill, as sharp as a needle.

“Right you are,” said the woman, “and here they are, the very beans themselves,” she went on, pulling out of her pocket a number of strange-looking beans. “As you are so sharp,” says she, “I don’t mind doing a swap with you — your cow for these beans.”

“Walker!” says Jill; “wouldn’t you like it?”

“Ah! you don’t know what these beans are,” said the woman; “if you plant them overnight, by morning they grow right up to the sky.”

“Really?” says Jill; “you don’t say so.”

“Yes, that is so, and if it doesn’t turn out to be true you can have your cow back.”

“Right,” says Jill, and hands her over Milky-white’s halter and pockets the beans.

Back goes Jill home, and as she hadn’t gone very far it wasn’t dusk by the time she got to her door.

“Back already, Jill?” said her father; “I see you haven’t got Milky-white, so you’ve sold her. How much did you get for her?”

“You’ll never guess, father,” says Jill.

“No, you don’t say so. Good girl! Five pounds, ten, fifteen, no, it can’t be twenty.”

“I told you you couldn’t guess. What do you say to these beans; they’re magical, plant them overnight and —”

Beanstalk“What!” says Jill’s father, “have you been such a fool, such a dolt, such an idiot, as to give away my Milky-white, the best milker in the parish, and prime beef to boot, for a set of paltry beans? Take that! Take that! Take that! And as for your precious beans here they go out of the window. And now off with you to bed. Not a sup shall you drink, and not a bit shall you swallow this very night.”

So Jill went upstairs to her little room in the attic, and sad and sorry she was, to be sure, as much for her father’s sake, as for the loss of her supper.

At last she dropped off to sleep.

When she woke up, the room looked so funny. The sun was shining into part of it, and yet all the rest was quite dark and shady. So Jill jumped up and dressed herself and went to the window. And what do you think she saw? Why, the beans her father had thrown out of the window into the garden had sprung up into a big beanstalk which went up and up and up till it reached the sky. So the woman spoke truth after all.

The beanstalk grew up quite close past Jill’s window, so all she had to do was to open it and give a jump on to the beanstalk which ran up just like a big plaited ladder. So Jill climbed, and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed till at last she reached the sky. And when she got there she found a long broad road going as straight as a dart. So she walked along and she walked along and she walked along till she came to a great big tall house, and on the doorstep there was a great big tall man.

“Good morning, sir,” says Jill, quite polite-like. “Could you be so kind as to give me some breakfast?” For she hadn’t had anything to eat, you know, the night before and was as hungry as a hunter.

“It’s breakfast you want, is it?” says the great big tall man, “it’s breakfast you’ll be if you don’t move off from here. My woman is an ogress and there’s nothing she likes better than girls broiled on toast. You’d better be moving on or she’ll soon be coming.”

“Oh! please, sir, do give me something to eat, sir. I’ve had nothing to eat since yesterday morning, really and truly, sir,” says Jill. “I may as well be broiled as die of hunger.”

Well, the ogress’ husband wasn’t such a bad sort after all. So he took Jill into the kitchen, and gave her a hunk of bread and cheese and a jug of milk. But Jill hadn’t half finished these when thump! thump! thump! the whole house began to tremble with the noise of someone coming.

“Goodness gracious me! It’s my old woman,” said the ogress’ husband, “what on earth shall I do? Come along quick and jump in here.” And he bundled Jill into the oven just as the ogress came in.

She was a big one, to be sure. At her belt she had three calves strung up by the heels, and she unhooked them and threw them down on the table and said: “Here, husband, broil me a couple of these for breakfast. Ah! what’s this I smell?

I smell the blood of an Englishwoman,
Be she alive, or be she dead,
I’ll have her bones to grind my bread.”

“Nonsense, dear,” said her husband, “you’re dreaming. Or perhaps you smell the scraps of that little girl you liked so much for yesterday’s dinner. Here, you go and have a wash and tidy up, and by the time you come back your breakfast’ll be ready for you.”

So off the ogress went, and Jill was just going to jump out of the oven and run away when the man told her not. “Wait till she’s asleep,” says he; “she always has a snooze after breakfast.”

Well, the ogress had her breakfast, and after that she goes to a big chest and takes out of it a couple of bags of gold, and sits down counting them till at last her head began to nod and she began to snore till the whole house shook again.

Then Jill crept out on tiptoe from her oven, and as she was passing the ogress she took one of the bags of gold under his arm, and off she pelters till she came to the beanstalk, and then she threw down the bag of gold, which, of course, fell into her father’s garden, and then she climbed down and climbed down till at last she got home and told her father and showed him the gold and said: “Well, father, wasn’t I right about the beans? They are really magical, you see.”

So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, but at last they came to the end of that so Jill made up her mind to try her luck once more up at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning she rose up early, and got on to the beanstalk, and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed till at last she got on the road again and came the great big tall house she had been to before. There, sure enough, was the great tall man a-standing on the doorstep.

“Good morning, sir,” says Jill, as bold as brass, “could you be so good as to give me something to eat?”

“Go away, my girl,” said the big, tall man, “or else my woman will eat you up for breakfast. But aren’t you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, that very day my man missed one of his bags of gold.”

“That’s strange, sir,” said Jill, “I dare say I could tell you something about that but I’m so hungry I can’t speak till I’ve had something to eat.”

Well, the big tall man was that curious that he took her in and gave her something to eat. But she had scarcely begun munching it as slowly as he could when thump! thump! they heard the giant’s footstep, and her husband hid Jill away in the oven.

All happened as it did before. In came the ogress as she did before, said: “Fee-fi-fo-fum,” and had her breakfast off three broiled oxen. Then she said: “Husband, bring me the hen that lays the golden eggs.” So he brought it, and the ogress said: “Lay,” and it laid an egg all of gold. And then the ogress began to nod her head, and to snore till the house shook.

Golden EggsThen Jill crept out of the oven on tiptoe and caught hold of the golden hen, and was off before you could say “Jill Robinson.” But this time the hen gave a cackle which woke the ogress, and just as Jill got out of the house she heard her calling:

“Husband, husband, what have you done with my golden hen?”

And the husband said: “Why, my dear?”

But that was all Jill heard, for she rushed off to the beanstalk and climbed down like a house on fire. And when he got home she showed her father the wonderful hen, and said “Lay” to it; and it laid a golden egg every time she said ‘Lay.”

Well, Jill was not content, and it wasn’t long before she determined to have another try at her luck up there at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning, she rose up early, and went on to the beanstalk, and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed and she climbed till he got to the top. But this time she knew better than to go straight to the ogress’ house. And when she got near it, she waited behind a bush till she saw the ogress’ husband come out with a pail to get some water, and then she crept into the house and got into the copper. She hadn’t been there long when she heard thump! thump! thump! as before, and in came the ogress and her husband.

“Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishwoman,” cried out the ogress. “I smell her, husband, I smell her.”

“Do you, my dearie?” says the ogress’ husband. “Then if it’s that little rogue that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden eggs she’s sure to have got into the oven.” And they both rushed to the oven. But Jill wasn’t there, luckily, and the ogress’ husband said: “There you are again with your fee-fi-fo-fum. Why, of course, it’s the lassie you caught last night that I’ve broiled for your breakfast. How forgetful I am, and how careless you are not to know the difference between live un and a dead un.”

So the ogress sat down to the breakfast and ate it, but every now and then she would mutter: “Well, I could have sworn —” and she’d get up and search the larder and the cupboards, and everything, only, luckily, she didn’t think of the copper.

After breakfast was over, the ogress called out: “Husband, husband, bring me my golden harp.” So he brought it and put it on the table before her. Then she said: “Sing!” and the golden harp sang most beautifully. And it went on singing till the ogress fell asleep, and commenced to snore like thunder.

Then Jill lifted up the copper-lid very quietly and got down like a mouse and crept on hands and knees till she came to the table when she got up and caught hold of the golden harp and dashed with it towards the door. But the harp called out quite loud: “Mistress! Mistress!” and the ogress woke up just in time to see Jill running off with his harp.

Singing HarpJill ran as fast as she could, and the ogress came rushing after, and would soon have caught her only Jill had a start and dodged her a bit and knew where she was going. When she got to the beanstalk the ogress was not more than twenty yards away when suddenly she saw Jill disappear like, and when she came to the end of the road she saw Jill underneath climbing down for dear life. Well, the ogress didn’t like trusting herself to such a ladder, and she stood and waited, so Jill got another start. But just then the harp cried out: “Mistress! Mistress!” and the ogress swung herself down on to the beanstalk, which shook with her weight. Down climbs Jill, and after her climbed the ogress. By this time Jill had climbed down and climbed down and climbed down till she was very nearly home. So she called out: “Father! Father! bring me an axe, bring me an axe.” And her father came rushing out with the axe in his hand, but when he came to the beanstalk he stood stock still with fright, for there he saw the ogress just coming down below the clouds.

But Jill jumped down and got hold of the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk which cut it half in two. The ogress felt the beanstalk shake and quiver so she stopped to see what was the matter. Then Jill gave another chop with the axe, and the beanstalk was cut in two and began to topple over. Then the ogress fell down and broke her crown, and the beanstalk came toppling after.

Then Jill showed her father her golden harp, and what with showing that and selling the golden eggs, Jill and her father became very rich, and she married a great prince, and they lived happy ever after.

By Joseph Jacobs (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


I actually think that this story flipped really well. The relationship between the ogress and her husband is a little strange (we don’t imagine giants being house-husbands very often), but really, if you were married to an ogre, wouldn’t you do the cooking too? I would, even if I were a guy. Jack/Jill is still basically a freeloading rogue and the parent figure largely just lets her be that way. That works equally well with the genders flipped as it did originally (now the protagonist more like the daughter in “Diamonds and Toads” who ended up with toads, but Jack would have been that kid anyway). I think this worked really well overall. Oh, and I decided for the first time to leave something the way it was. The cow and the hen both retained their original sexes (I just couldn’t write about milking a bull or a rooster who laid eggs, it doesn’t make sense). Since their identities isn’t at all vital to the story, I decided to bend the rules for them in the interests of the story maintaining logical biology (magic beanstalks and golden eggs notwithstanding).

Gender-Flipped Tales: The Shepherd and the Sweep


Have you ever seen an old wooden cupboard quite black with age, and ornamented with carved foliage and curious figures? Well, just such a cupboard stood in a parlor, and had been left to the family as a legacy by the great-grandfather. It was covered from top to bottom with carved roses and tulips; the most curious scrolls were drawn upon it, and out of them peeped little stags’ heads, with antlers. In the middle of the cupboard door was the carved figure of a woman most ridiculous to look at. She grinned at you, for no one could call it laughing. She had goat’s legs, little horns on her head, and long hair; the children in the room always called her, “Major general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs.” It was certainly a very difficult name to pronounce, and there are very few who ever receive such a title, but then it seemed wonderful how she came to be carved at all; yet there she was, always looking at the table under the looking-glass, where stood a very handsome little shepherd made of china. His shoes were gilt, and his suit had a red rose or an ornament. He wore a hat, and carried a crook, that were both gilded, and looked very bright and pretty. Close by his side stood a little chimney-sweep, as black as coal, and also made of china. She was, however, quite as clean and neat as any other china figure; she only represented a black chimney-sweep, and the china workers might just as well have made her a princess, had they felt inclined to do so. She stood holding her ladder quite handily, and her face was as fair and rosy as a boy’s; indeed, that was rather a mistake, it should have had some black marks on it. She and the shepherd had been placed close together, side by side; and, being so placed, they became engaged to each other, for they were very well suited, being both made of the same sort of china, and being equally fragile. Close to them stood another figure, three times as large as they were, and also made of china. She was an old Chinawoman, who could nod her head, and used to pretend that she was the grandmother of the shepherd, although she could not prove it. She however assumed authority over him, and therefore when “Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs” asked for the little shepherd to be her husband, she nodded her head to show that she consented. “You will have a wife,” said the old Chinawoman to him, “who I really believe is made of mahogany. She will make you a gentleman of Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs. She has the whole cupboard full of silver plate, which she keeps locked up in secret drawers.”

“I won’t go into the dark cupboard,” said the little shepherd. “I have heard that she has eleven china husbands there already.”
“Then you shall be the twelfth,” said the old Chinawoman. “To-night as soon as you hear a rattling in the old cupboard, you shall be married, as true as I am a Chinawoman;” and then she nodded her head and fell asleep.

Then the little shepherd cried, and looked at his sweetheart, the china chimney-sweep. “I must entreat you,” said he, “to go out with me into the wide world, for we cannot stay here.”

“I will do whatever you wish,” said the little chimney-sweep; “let us go immediately: I think I shall be able to maintain you with my profession.”

“If we were but safely down from the table!” said he; “I shall not be happy till we are really out in the world.”

Then she comforted him, and showed him how to place his little foot on the carved edge and gilt-leaf ornaments of the table. She brought her little ladder to help him, and so they contrived to reach the floor. But when they looked at the old cupboard, they saw it was all in an uproar. The carved stags pushed out their heads, raised their antlers, and twisted their necks. The major-general sprung up in the air; and cried out to the old Chinawoman, “They are running away! they are running away!” The two were rather frightened at this, so they jumped into the drawer of the window-seat. Here were three or four packs of cards not quite complete, and a doll’s theater, which had been built up very neatly. A comedy was being performed in it, and all the kings of diamonds, clubs, and hearts, and spades, sat in the first row fanning themselves with tulips, and behind them stood all the knaves, showing that they had heads above and below as playing cards generally have. The play was about two lovers, who were not allowed to marry, and the shepherd wept because it was so like his own story. “I cannot bear it,” said he, “I must get out of the drawer;” but when they reached the floor, and cast their eyes on the table, there was the old Chinawoman awake and shaking her whole body, till all at once down she came on the floor, “plump.” “The old Chinawoman is coming,” cried the little shepherd in a fright, and down he fell on one knee.

Toy Theater“I have thought of something,” said the chimney-sweep; “let us get into the great potpourri jar which stands in the corner; there we can lie on rose-leaves and lavender, and throw salt in her eyes if she comes near us.”

“No, that will never do,” said he, “because I know that the Chinawoman and the potpourri jar were lovers once, and there always remains behind a feeling of good-will between those who have been so intimate as that. No, there is nothing left for us but to go out into the wide world.”

“Have you really courage enough to go out into the wide world with me?” said the chimney-sweep; “have you thought how large it is, and that we can never come back here again?”

“Yes, I have,” he replied.

When the chimney-sweep saw that he was quite firm, she said, “My way is through the stove and up the chimney. Have you courage to creep with me through the fire-box, and the iron pipe? When we get to the chimney I shall know how to manage very well. We shall soon climb too high for any one to reach us, and we shall come through a hole in the top out into the wide world.” So she led him to the door of the stove.

“It looks very dark,” said he; still he went in with her through the stove and through the pipe, where it was as dark as pitch.
“Now we are in the chimney,” said she; “and look, there is a beautiful star shining above it.” It was a real star shining down upon them as if it would show them the way. So they clambered, and crept on, and a frightful steep place it was; but the chimney-sweep helped him and supported him, till they got higher and higher. She showed him the best places on which to set his little china foot, so at last they reached the top of the chimney, and sat themselves down, for they were very tired, as may be supposed. The sky, with all its stars, was over their heads, and below were the roofs of the town. They could see for a very long distance out into the wide world, and the poor little shepherd leaned his head on his chimney-sweep’s shoulder, and wept till he washed the gilt off his sash; the world was so different to what he expected. “This is too much,” he said; “I cannot bear it, the world is too large. Oh, I wish I were safe back on the table. again, under the looking glass; I shall never be happy till I am safe back again. Now I have followed you out into the wide world, you will take me back, if you love me.”

Broken ChinaThen the chimney-sweep tried to reason with him, and spoke of the old Chinawoman, and of the Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s legs; but he sobbed so bitterly, and kissed his little chimney-sweep till she was obliged to do all he asked, foolish as it was. And so, with a great deal of trouble, they climbed down the chimney, and then crept through the pipe and stove, which were certainly not very pleasant places. Then they stood in the dark fire-box, and listened behind the door, to hear what was going on in the room. As it was all quiet, they peeped out. Alas! there lay the old Chinawoman on the floor; she had fallen down from the table as she attempted to run after them, and was broken into three pieces; her back had separated entirely, and her head had rolled into a corner of the room. The major-general stood in her old place, and appeared lost in thought.

“This is terrible,” said the little shepherd. “My poor old grandmother is broken to pieces, and it is our fault. I shall never live after this;” and he wrung his little hands.

“She can be riveted,” said the chimney-sweep; “she can be riveted. Do not be so hasty. If they cement her back, and put a good rivet in it, she will be as good as new, and be able to say as many disagreeable things to us as ever.”

“Do you think so?” said he; and then they climbed up to the table, and stood in their old places.

“As we have done no good,” said the chimney-sweep, “we might as well have remained here, instead of taking so much trouble.”

“I wish grandmother was riveted,” said the shepherd. “Will it cost much, I wonder?”

And he had her wish. The family had the Chinawoman’s back mended, and a strong rivet put through her neck; she looked as good as new, but she could no longer nod her head.

“You have become proud since your fall broke you to pieces,” said Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs. “You have no reason to give yourself such airs. Am I to have him or not?”

The chimney-sweep and the little shepherd looked piteously at the old Chinawoman, for they were afraid she might nod; but she was not able: besides, it was so tiresome to be always telling strangers she had a rivet in the back of her neck.

And so the little china people remained together, and were glad of the grandmother’s rivet, and continued to love each other till they were broken to pieces.

by Hans Christian Andersen (available in its original form at Hans Christian Andersen: Fairy Tales and Stories)


This story flipped fairly painlessly, but I’m not sure that it works as well as some of the others have. The shepherd’s weepiness doesn’t seem as appropriate in a man as it did in a woman (now, I never thought it very appropriate or appealing, but still…). The cupboard’s title (Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs) also seems a little odd now. There is nothing inherently gendered in there (I thought about flipping Billy, but since the phrase “billy-goat” gets used for both genders of goats indiscriminately, I decided against it), but it feels like something should change about it. Still, I left it as it was. I liked the meddling grandparent figure just as well as a grandmother, even if the word “chinawoman” is a little more cumbersome than “chinaman”. Neither is a great word anyway, if you ask me. Overall, I think the story works ok. Suggestions and comments are welcome, as always!

Gender-Flipped Tales: The Six Swans

The Wild SwansTale:

A Queen was once hunting in a great wood, and she hunted the game so eagerly that none of her courtiers could follow her. When evening came on she stood still and looked round her, and she saw that she had quite lost herself. She sought a way out, but could find none. Then she saw an old man with a shaking head coming towards her; but he was a warlock.

“Good man,”‘ she said to him, “can you not show me the way out of the wood?”

“Oh, certainly, Madam Queen,” he replied, “I can quite well do that, but on one condition, which if you do not fulfill you will never get out of the wood, and will die of hunger.”

“What is the condition?”‘ asked the Queen.

“I have a son,” said the old man, “who is so handsome that he has not his equal in the world, and is well fitted to be your husband; if you will make him your lord-husband I will show you the way out of the wood.”

The Queen in her anguish of mind consented, and the old man led her to his little house where his son was sitting by the fire. He received the Queen as if he were expecting her, and she saw that he was certainly very handsome; but he did not please her, and she could not look at him without a secret feeling of horror. As soon as she had lifted the youth on to her horse the old man showed her the way, and the Queen reached her palace, where the wedding was celebrated.

The Queen had already been married once, and had by her first husband seven children, six girls and one boy, whom she loved more than anything in the world. And now, because she was afraid that their stepfather might not treat them well and might do them harm, she put them in a lonely castle that stood in the middle of a wood. It lay so hidden, and the way to it was so hard to find, that she herself could not have found it out had not a wise-man given her a reel of thread which possessed a marvelous property: when she threw it before her it unwound itself and showed her the way. But the Queen went so often to her dear children that the King was offended at her absence. He grew curious, and wanted to know what she had to do quite alone in the wood. He gave her servants a great deal of money, and they betrayed the secret to him, and also told him of the reel which alone could point out the way. He had no rest now till he had found out where the Queen guarded the reel, and then he made some little white shirts, and, as he had learnt from his warlock-father, sewed an enchantment in each of them.

And when the Queen had ridden off he took the little shirts and went into the wood, and the reel showed him the way. The children, who saw someone coming in the distance, thought it was their dear mother coming to them, and sprang to meet her very joyfully. Then he threw over each one a little shirt, which when it had touched their bodies changed them into swans, and they flew away over the forest. The King went home quite satisfied, and thought he had got rid of his step-children; but the boy had not run to meet him with his sisters, and he knew nothing of him.

The next day the Queen came to visit her children, but she found no one but the boy.

“Where are your sisters?”‘ asked the Queen.

“Alas! dear mother,” he answered, “they have gone away and left me all alone.” And he told her that looking out of his little window he had seen his sisters flying over the wood in the shape of swans, and he showed her the feathers which they had let fall in the yard, and which he had collected. The Queen mourned, but she did not think that the King had done the wicked deed, and as she was afraid the youth would also be taken from her, she wanted to take him with her. But he was afraid of the stepfather, and begged the Queen to let him stay just one night more in the castle in the wood. The poor youth thought, “My home is no longer here; I will go and seek my sisters.” And when night came he fled away into the forest. He ran all through the night and the next day, till he could go no farther for weariness. Then he saw a little hut, went in, and found a room with six little beds. He was afraid to lie down on one, so he crept under one of them, lay on the hard floor, and was going to spend the night there. But when the sun had set he heard a noise, and saw six swans flying in at the window. They stood on the floor and blew at one another, and blew all their feathers off, and their swan-skin came off like a shirt. Then the youth recognized his sisters, and overjoyed he crept out from under the bed. His sisters were not less delighted than he to see their little brother again, but their joy did not last long.
“You cannot stay here,” they said to him. “This is a den of robbers; if they were to come here and find you they would kill you.”
“Could you not protect me?” asked the little brother.

Swans“No,” they answered, “for we can only lay aside our swan skins for a quarter of an hour every evening. For this time we regain our human forms, but then we are changed into swans again.”

The the little brother cried and said, “Can you not be freed?”

“Oh, no,” they said, “the conditions are too hard. You must not speak or laugh for six years, and must make in that time six shirts for us out of star-flowers. If a single word comes out of your mouth, all your labor is vain.” And when the sisters had said this the quarter of an hour came to an end, and they flew away out of the window as swans.

But the youth had determined to free his sisters even if it should cost him his life. He left the hut, went into the forest, climbed a tree, and spent the night there. The next morning he went out, collected star-flowers, and began to sew. He could speak to no one, and he had no wish to laugh, so he sat there, looking only at his work.

When he had lived there some time, it happened that the Queen of the country was hunting in the forest, and her huntresses came to the tree on which the youth sat. They called to him and said “Who are you?”

But he gave no answer.

“Come down to us,” they said, “we will do you no harm.”

But he shook his head silently. As they pressed him further with questions, he threw them the golden chain from his neck. But they did not leave off, and he threw them his belt, and when this was no use, his garters, and then his tunic. The huntresses would not leave him alone, but climbed the tree, lifted the youth down, and led him to the Queen. The Queen asked, “Who are you? What are you doing up that tree?”

But he answered nothing.

She asked him in all the languages she knew, but he remained as dumb as a fish. Because he was so handsome, however, the Queen’s heart was touched, and she was seized with a great love for him. She wrapped him up in her cloak, placed him before her on her horse. and brought him to her castle. There she had him dressed in rich clothes, and his handsomeness shone out as bright as day, but not a word could be drawn from him. She set him at table by her side, and his modest ways and behavior pleased her so much that she said, “I will marry this youth and none other in the world,” and after some days she married him. But the Queen had a wicked father who was displeased with the marriage, and said wicked things of the young King. “Who knows who this boy is?” he said; “he cannot speak, and is not worthy of a queen.”

After a year, when the King had his first child, the old father took it away from him. Then he went to the Queen and said that the King had killed it. The Queen would not believe it, and would not allow any harm to be done him. But he sat quietly sewing at the shirts and troubling himself about nothing. The next time he had a child the wicked father did the same thing, but the Queen could not make up her mind to believe him. She said, “He is too sweet and good to do such a thing as that. If he were not dumb and could defend himself, his innocence would be proved.” But when the third child was taken away, and the King was again accused, and could not utter a word in his own defense, the Queen was obliged to give him over to the law, which decreed that he must be burnt to death. When the day came on which the sentence was to be executed, it was the last day of the six years in which he must not speak or laugh, and now he had freed his dear sisters from the power of the enchantment. The six shirts were done; there was only the left sleeve wanting to the last.

When he was led to the stake, he laid the shirts on his arm, and as he stood on the pile and the fire was about to be lighted, he looked around him and saw six swans flying through the air. Then he knew that his release was at hand and his heart danced for joy. The swans fluttered round him, and hovered low so that he could throw the shirts over them. When they had touched them the swan-skins fell off, and his sisters stood before him living, well and beautiful. Only the youngest had a swan’s wing instead of her left arm. They embraced and kissed each other, and the King went to the Queen, who was standing by in great astonishment, and began to speak to her, saying, “Dearest wife, now I can speak and tell you openly that I am innocent and have been falsely accused.”

StarflowerHe told him of the old man’s deceit, and how he had taken the three children away and hidden them. Then they were fetched, to the great joy of the Queen, and the wicked father came to no good end.

But the Queen and the King with their six sisters lived many years in happiness and peace.

by The Brothers Grimm (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


There were two places in this story where oddnesses crept up in the gender-flipped version. The first was when the protagonist is throwing clothes down to the huntresses/hunters. I contemplated leaving it a girdle and dress, but decided to change them instead. It just makes more sense this way and I don’t see that it changes the scene in any meaningful way. The second place was near the end when the children are being born and taken away. I decided to leave it “the King had his first child” rather than fiddle with it because it doesn’t actually say he gave birth to the children and because fiddling would have been too complicated. I think it works ok, but it is slightly odd.

Overall I thought that this story flipped pretty well. I wasn’t sure how it would work at first, but somehow it seems fine even with the boy sewing the shirts and the Kings being changed to Queens. The sisters being the swans actually works pretty well as far as story symbols go (girls turn into swans and things regularly in fairy tales, but it doesn’t seem to happen to boys as often). This story when gender-flipped does put the power of textile arts in the hands of men, where it rarely is. It’s an interesting story. I’m glad it worked out as well as it did.

Gender-Flipped Tales: Rapunzo


Once upon a time there lived a woman and her husband who were very unhappy because they had no children. These good people had a little window at the back of their house, which looked into the most lovely garden, full of all manner of beautiful flowers and vegetables; but the garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared to enter it, for it belonged to a warlock of great power, who was feared by the whole world.

One day the man stood at the window overlooking the garden, and saw there a bed full of the finest rampion: the leaves looked so fresh and green that he longed to eat them. The desire grew day by day, and just because he knew he couldn’t possibly get any, he pined away and became quite pale and wretched. Then his wife grew alarmed and said:

“What ails you, dear husband?”

“Oh,” he answered, “if I don’t get some rampion to eat out of the garden behind the house, I know I shall die.”

The woman, who loved him dearly, thought to herself, “Come! rather than let your husband die you shall fetch him some rampion, no matter the cost.” So at dusk she climbed over the wall into the warlock’s garden, and, hastily gathering a handful of rampion leaves, she returned with them to her husband. He made them into a salad, which tasted so good that his longing for the forbidden food was greater than ever. If he were to know any peace of mind, there was nothing for it but that his wife should climb over the garden wall again, and fetch him some more. So at dusk over she got, but when she reached the other side she drew back in terror, for there, standing before her, was the old warlock.

“How dare you,” he said, with a wrathful glance, “climb into my garden and steal my rampion like a common thief? You shall suffer for your foolhardiness.”

“Oh!” she implored, “pardon my presumption; necessity alone drove me to the deed. My husband saw your rampion from his window, and conceived such a desire for it that he would certainly have died if his wish had not been gratified.” Then the Warlock’s anger was a little appeased, and he said:

“If it’s as you say, you may take as much rampion away with you as you like, but on one condition only — that you give me the child you will shortly bring into the world. All shall go well with it, and I will look after it like a father.”

The woman in her terror agreed to everything he asked, and as soon as the child was born the Warlock appeared, and having given it the name of Rapunzo, which is the same as rampion, he carried it off with him.

Rapunzo was the most beautiful child under the sun. When he was twelve years old the Warlock shut him up in a tower, in the middle of a great wood, and the tower had neither stairs nor doors, only high up at the very top a small window. When the old Warlock wanted to get in he stood underneath and called out:

“Rapunzo, Rapunzo,
Let down your golden hair,”

for Rapunzo had wonderful long hair, and it was as fine as spun gold. Whenever he heard the Warlock’s voice he unloosed his plaits, and let his hair fall down out of the window about twenty yards below, and the old Warlock climbed up by it.

After they had lived like this for a few years, it happened one day that a Princess was riding through the wood and passed by the tower. As she drew near it she heard someone singing so sweetly that she stood still spell-bound, and listened. It was Rapunzo in his loneliness trying to while away the time by letting his sweet voice ring out into the wood. The Princess longed to see the owner of the voice, but she sought in vain for a door in the tower. She rode home, but she was so haunted by the song she had heard that she returned every day to the wood and listened. One day, when she was standing thus behind a tree, she saw the old Warlock approach and heard him call out:

“Rapunzo, Rapunzo,
Let down your golden hair.”

Then Rapunzo let down his plaits, and the Warlock climbed up by them.

Rapunzel Waits“So that’s the staircase, is it?” said the Princess. “Then I too will climb it and try my luck.”

So on the following day, at dusk, she went to the foot of the tower and cried:

“Rapunzo, Rapunzo,
Let down your golden hair,”

and as soon as he had let it down the Princess climbed up.

At first Rapunzo was terribly frightened when a woman came in, for he had never seen one before; but the Princess spoke to him so kindly, and told him at once that her heart had been so touched by his singing, that she felt she should know no peace of mind till she had seen him. Very soon Rapunzo forgot his fear, and when she asked him to marry her he consented at once. “For,” he thought, “she is young and handsome, and I’ll certainly be happier with her than with the old Warlock.” So he put his hand in hers and said:

“Yes, I will gladly go with you, only how am I to get down out of the tower? Every time you come to see me you must bring a skein of silk with you, and I will make a ladder of them, and when it is finished I will climb down by it, and you will take me away on your horse.”

They arranged that till the ladder was ready, she was to come to him every evening, because the old man was with him during the day. The old Warlock, of course, knew nothing of what was going on, till one day Rapunzo, not thinking of what he was about, turned to the Warlock and said:

“How is it, good father, that you are so much harder to pull up than the young Princess? She is always with me in a moment.”

“Oh! you wicked child,” cried the Warlock. “What is this I hear? I thought I had hidden you safely from the whole world, and in spite of it you have managed to deceive me.”

In his wrath he seized Rapunzo’s beautiful hair, wound it round and round his left hand, and then grasping a pair of scissors in his right, snip snap, off it came, and the beautiful plaits lay on the ground. And, worse than this, he was so hard-hearted that he took Rapunzo to a lonely desert place, and there left him to live in loneliness and misery.

But on the evening of the day in which he had driven poor Rapunzo away, the Warlock fastened the plaits on to a hook in the window, and when the Princess came and called out:

“Rapunzo, Rapunzo,
Let down your golden hair,”

he let them down, and the Princess climbed up as usual, but instead of her beloved Rapunzo she found the old Warlock, who fixed his evil, glittering eyes on her, and cried mockingly:

“Ah, ah! you thought to find your lord love, but the pretty bird has flown and its song is dumb; the cat caught it, and will scratch out your eyes too. Rapunzo is lost to you for ever — you will never see him more.”

RapunzelThe Princess was beside herself with grief, and in her despair she jumped right down from the tower, and, though she escaped with her life, the thorns among which she fell pierced her eyes out. Then she wandered, blind and miserable, through the wood, eating nothing but roots and berries, and weeping and lamenting the loss of her handsome husband. So she wandered about for some years, as wretched and unhappy as she could well be, and at last she came to the desert place where Rapunzo was living. Of a sudden she heard a voice which seemed strangely familiar to her. She walked eagerly in the direction of the sound, and when she was quite close, Rapunzo recognised her and fell on her neck and wept. But two of his tears touched her eyes, and in a moment they became quite clear again, and she saw as well as she had ever done. Then she led him to her kingdom, where they were received and welcomed with great joy, and they lived happily ever after.

by The Brothers Grimm (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


I knew this story wouldn’t flip incredibly smoothly, even though I used a version without the twins at the end. The long hair doesn’t really present too much of problem (men can have long hair as easily as women, it’s just far less common). What was odd was that the hair was in plaits. Men’s hair is rarely described as being plaited so it really just felt odd, despite the fact that if a man did have hair that long he’d have to plait it, just as a woman would, for practical reasons.

The only other real issue was with the parents at the beginning. It works fine to have the wife fetch the rampion for the husband, but the conversation about the child being born took a little more tweaking than I usually like. I couldn’t very well have the husband giving birth to Rapunzo, so the conversation had to change from “your wife” to “you”, which feels like it’s fundamentally changing something about the bargain being struck. It’s still both parents giving it up, but suddenly it changes who is deciding to do so, and that has broader implications (especially once you look out at cultural attitudes and such). Not only is it the woman making the decision for both of them, but we have just been reminded that it is her who will bring the child into the world. What are all the implications of that interchange and how do they affect the beginning of the story? I really couldn’t tell you, but I think it’s pretty interesting (it certainly made me think more about the implications of the original, which is part of the point of this exercise in the first place).

Gender-Flipped Tales: The Frog Princess

Frog and PrinceTale:

In old times when wishing still helped one, there lived a queen whose sons were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in his face. Close by the Queen’s castle lay a great dark forest, and under an old lime-tree in the forest was a well, and when the day was very warm, the Queen’s child went out into the forest and sat down by the side of the cool fountain, and when he was dull he took a golden ball, and threw it up on high and caught it, and this ball was his favorite plaything.

Now it so happened that on one occasion the prince’s golden ball did not fall into the little hand which he was holding up for it, but on to the ground beyond, and rolled straight into the water. The Queen’s son followed it with his eyes, but it vanished, and the well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen. On this he began to cry, and cried louder and louder, and could not be comforted. And as he thus lamented some one said to him, “What ails thee, Queen’s son? Thou weepest so that even a stone would show pity.” He looked round to the side from whence the voice came, and saw a frog stretching forth its thick, ugly head from the water. “Ah! old water-splasher, is it thou?” said he; “I am weeping for my golden ball, which has fallen into the well.”
“Be quiet, and do not weep,” answered the frog, “I can help thee, but what wilt thou give me if I bring thy plaything up again?” “Whatever thou wilt have, dear frog,” said he — “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, and even the golden crown which I am wearing.”

The frog answered, “I do not care for thy clothes, thy pearls and jewels, or thy golden crown, but if thou wilt love me and let me be thy companion and play-fellow, and sit by thee at thy little table, and eat off thy little golden plate, and drink out of thy little cup, and sleep in thy little bed — if thou wilt promise me this I will go down below, and bring thee thy golden ball up again.”

“Oh yes,” said he, “I promise thee all thou wishest, if thou wilt but bring me my ball back again.” He, however, thought, “How the silly frog does talk! She lives in the water with the other frogs, and croaks, and can be no companion to any human being!”

But the frog when she had received this promise, put her head into the water and sank down, and in a short while came swimming up again with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the grass. The Queen’s son was delighted to see her pretty plaything once more, and picked it up, and ran away with it. “Wait, wait,” said the frog. “Take me with thee. I can’t run as thou canst.” But what did it avail her to scream her croak, croak, after him, as loudly as she could? He did not listen to it, but ran home and soon forgot the poor frog, who was forced to go back into her well again.

The next day when he had seated himself at table with the Queen and all the courtiers, and was eating from her little golden plate, something came creeping splish splash, splish splash, up the marble staircase, and when it had got to the top, it knocked at the door and cried, “Prince, youngest prince, open the door for me.” He ran to see who was outside, but when he opened the door, there sat the frog in front of it. Then he slammed the door to, in great haste, sat down to dinner again, and was quite frightened. The Queen saw plainly that his heart was beating violently, and said, “My child, what art thou so afraid of? Is there perchance a giant outside who wants to carry thee away?” “Ah, no,” replied he. “It is no giant but a disgusting frog.”

Golden Ball“What does a frog want with thee?” “Ah, dear mother, yesterday as I was in the forest sitting by the well, playing, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I cried so, the frog brought it out again for me, and because she so insisted, I promised her she should be my companion, but I never thought she would be able to come out of her water! And now she is outside there, and wants to come in to me.”

In the meantime it knocked a second time, and cried,

“Prince! youngest prince!
Open the door for me!
Dost thou not know what thou saidst to me
Yesterday by the cool waters of the fountain?
Prince, youngest prince!
Open the door for me!”

Then said the Queen, “That which thou hast promised must thou perform. Go and let her in.” He went and opened the door, and the frog hopped in and followed him, step by step, to his chair. There she sat and cried, “Lift me up beside thee.” He delayed, until at last the Queen commanded him to do it. When the frog was once on the chair she wanted to be on the table, and when she was on the table she said, “Now, push thy little golden plate nearer to me that we may eat together.” He did this, but it was easy to see that he did not do it willingly. The frog enjoyed what she ate, but almost every mouthful he took choked him. At length she said, “I have eaten and am satisfied; now I am tired, carry me into thy little room and make thy little silken bed ready, and we will both lie down and go to sleep.”

The Queen’s son began to cry, for he was afraid of the cold frog which he did not like to touch, and which was now to sleep in his pretty, clean little bed. But the Queen grew angry and said, “She who helped thee when thou wert in trouble ought not afterwards to be despised by thee.” So he took hold of the frog with two fingers, carried her upstairs, and put her in a corner. But when he was in bed she crept to him and said, “I am tired, I want to sleep as well as thou, lift me up or I will tell thy mother.” Then he was terribly angry, and took her up and threw her with all her might against the wall. “Now, thou wilt be quiet, odious frog,” said he. But when she fell down she was no frog but a Queen’s daughter with beautiful kind eyes. She by his mother’s will was now his dear companion and wife. Then she told him how she had been bewitched by a wicked warlock, and how no one could have delivered her from the well but himself, and that to-morrow they would go together into her kingdom. Then they went to sleep, and next morning when the sun awoke them, a carriage came driving up with eight white horses, which had white ostrich feathers on their heads, and were harnessed with golden chains, and behind stood the young Queen’s servant Faithful Henrietta. Faithful Henrietta had been so unhappy when her mistress was changed into a frog, that she had caused three iron bands to be laid round her heart, lest it should burst with grief and sadness. The carriage was to conduct the young Queen into her Kingdom. Faithful Henrietta helped them both in, and placed herself behind again, and was full of joy because of this deliverance. And when they had driven a part of the way the Queen’s daughter heard a cracking behind her as if something had broken. So she turned round and cried, “Henrietta, the carriage is breaking.”

Carriage“No, mistress, it is not the carriage. It is a band from my heart, which was put there in my great pain when you were a frog and imprisoned in the well.” Again and once again while they were on their way something cracked, and each time the Queen’s daughter thought the carriage was breaking; but it was only the bands which were springing from the heart of faithful Henrietta because her mistress was set free and was happy.

by the Brothers Grimm (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


Flipping this story, more clearly than any I’ve done before it, forced the story into a matriarchal world. The power is passed through the daughter’s lines and the prince is really kind of inconsequential. Beyond that, the story makes pretty good sense with gender-flipped characters. You have a flighty, spoiled prince, a practical queen who wishes her son had some better manners and a frog princess who really just wants to change back to herself and get back to her kingdom. I actually thought the weird gold ball thing might make more sense to modern readers with the princess changed to a prince. Who knows? I do like that this classic version of the story is kiss-free. It’s slightly less creepy that way.

Gender-Flipped Tales: The Prince and the Pea

Prince CrownThe Tale:

There was once a Princess who wished to marry a Prince; but then he must be a real Prince. She travelled all over the world in hopes of finding such a gentleman; but there was always something wrong. Princes she found in plenty; but whether they were real Princes it was impossible for her to decide, for now one thing, now another, seemed to her not quite right about the gentlemen. At last she returned to her palace quite cast down, because she wished so much to have a real Prince for her husband.

One evening a fearful tempest arose, it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down from the sky in torrents: besides, it was as dark as pitch. All at once there was heard a violent knocking at the door, and the old Queen, the Princess’ mother, went out herself to open it.

It was a Prince who was standing outside the door. What with the rain and the wind, he was in a sad condition; the water trickled down from his hair, and his clothes clung to his body. He said he was a real Prince.

The Princess and the Pea jewelry“Ah! we shall soon see that!” thought the old King-father; however, he said not a word of what he was going to do; but went quietly into the bedroom, took all the bed-clothes off the bed, and put three little peas on the bedstead. He then laid twenty mattresses one upon another over the three peas, and put twenty feather beds over the mattresses.

Upon this bed the Prince was to pass the night.

The next morning he was asked how he had slept. “Oh, very badly indeed!” he replied. “I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue. It has hurt me so much!”

Now it was plain that the gentleman must be a real Prince, since he had been able to feel the three little peas through the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. None but a real Prince could have had such a delicate sense of feeling.

The Princess accordingly made him her husband; being now convinced that she had found a real Prince. The three peas were however put into the cabinet of curiosities, where they are still to be seen, provided they are not lost.

Wasn’t this a gentleman of real delicacy?

The Princess and the Pea papercutby Hans Christian Andersen (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


This story actually flipped really well. Not only did the characters generally switch pretty smoothly (with the single exception of “Queen-mother” to “King-father”, which just sounds strange), but the story still makes just as much sense, maybe even more! A princess who is destined to inherit a kingdom would have to get married, but it is believable that it would be important to her and to her parents to keep their family line going and of pure royal blood, thus her husband must be a Real Prince. So she goes looking for one and her father even devises a test. When a suitable prince is found, the test (which must be something a prince would never suspect or anticipate) is performed. It all makes a lot of sense, actually. This exercise might even have made me like this story a little more.

Gender-Flipped Tales: Bluehair (Bluebeard)

BluehairThe Tale:
There was a woman who had fine houses, both in town and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But this woman was so unlucky as to have blue hair, which made her so frightfully ugly that all the men and boys ran away from her.

One of her neighbors, a gentleman of quality, had two sons who were perfectly handsome. She desired of him one of them in marriage, leaving to him choice which of the two he would bestow on her. They would neither of them have her, and sent her backward and forward from one another, not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a woman who had blue hair, and what besides gave them disgust and aversion was her having already been married to several husbands, and nobody ever knew what became of them.

Bluehair, to engage their affection, took them, with the gentleman their father and three or four gentlemen of their acquaintance, with other young people of the neighborhood, to one of her country seats, where they stayed a whole week.

There was nothing there to be seen but parties of pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting. Nobody went to bed, but all passed the night in rallying and joking with each other. In short, everything succeeded so well that the youngest son began to think the mistress of the house not to have hair so very blue, and that she was a mighty civil lady.

As soon as they returned home, the marriage was concluded. About a month afterward, Bluehair told her husband that she was obliged to take a country journey for six weeks at least, about affairs of very great consequence, desiring him to divert himself in her absence, to send for his friends and acquaintances, to carry them into the country, if he pleased, and to make good cheer wherever he was.

“Here,” said she, “are the keys of the two great wardrobes, wherein I have my best furniture; these are of my silver and gold plate, which is not every day in use; these open my strong boxes, which hold my money, both gold and silver; these my caskets of jewels; and this is the master-key to all my apartments. But for this little one here, it is the key of the closet at the end of the great gallery on the ground floor. Open them all; go into all and every one of them, except that little closet, which I forbid you, and forbid it in such a manner that, if you happen to open it, there’s nothing but what you may expect from my just anger and resentment.”

He promised to observe, very exactly, whatever she had ordered; when she, after having embraced him, got into her coach and proceeded on her journey.

His neighbors and good friends did not stay to be sent for by the new married gentleman, so great was their impatience to see all the rich furniture of his house, not daring to come while his wife was there, because of her blue hair, which frightened them. They ran through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, which were all so fine and rich that they seemed to surpass one another.

After that they went up into the two great rooms, where was the best and richest furniture; they could not sufficiently admire the number and beauty of the tapestry, beds, couches, cabinets, stands, tables, and looking-glasses, in which you might see yourself from head to foot; some of them were framed with glass, others with silver, plain and gilded, the finest and most magnificent ever were seen.

They ceased not to extol and envy the happiness of their friend, who in the meantime in no way diverted himself in looking upon all these rich things, because of the impatience he had to go and open the closet on the ground floor. He was so much pressed by his curiosity that, without considering that it was very uncivil to leave his company, he went down a little back staircase, and with such excessive haste that he had twice or thrice like to have broken his neck.

Coming to the closet-door, he made a stop for some time, thinking upon his wife’s orders, and considering what unhappiness might attend him if he was disobedient; but the temptation was so strong he could not overcome it. He then took the little key, and opened it, trembling, but could not at first see anything plainly, because the windows were shut. After some moments he began to perceive that the floor was all covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies of several dead men, ranged against the walls. (These were all the husbands whom Bluehair had married and murdered, one after another.) He thought he should have died for fear, and the key, which he pulled out of the lock, fell out of his hand.

Brass KeyAfter having somewhat recovered his surprise, he took up the key, locked the door, and went upstairs into his chamber to recover himself; but he could not, he was so much frightened. Having observed that the key of the closet was stained with blood, he tried two or three times to wipe it off, but the blood would not come out; in vain did he wash it, and even rub it with soap and sand; the blood still remained, for the key was magical and he could never make it quite clean; when the blood was gone off from one side, it came again on the other.

Bluehair returned from her journey the same evening, and said she had received letters upon the road, informing her that the affair she went about was ended to her advantage. Her husband did all he could to convince her he was extremely glad of her speedy return.

Next morning she asked him for the keys, which he gave her, but with such a trembling hand that she easily guessed what had happened.

“What!” said she, “is not the key of my closet among the rest?”

“I must certainly have left it above upon the table,” said he.

“Fail not to bring it to me presently,” said Bluehair.

After several goings backward and forward he was forced to bring her the key. Bluehair, having very attentively considered it, said to her husband, “How comes this blood upon the key?”

“I do not know,” cried the poor man, paler than death.

“You do not know!” replied Bluehair. “I very well know. You were resolved to go into the closet, were you not? Mighty well, sir; you shall go in, and take your place among the gentlemen you saw there.”

Upon this he threw herself at his wife’s feet, and begged her pardon with all the signs of true repentance, vowing that he would never more be disobedient. He would have melted a rock, so handsome and sorrowful was he; but Bluehair had a heart harder than any rock!

“You must die, sir,” said she, “and that presently.”

“Since I must die,” answered he (looking upon her with his eyes all bathed in tears), “give me some little time to say my prayers.”
“I give you,” replied Bluehair, “half a quarter of an hour, but not one moment more.”

When he was alone he called out to his brother, and said to him: “Brother Andrew” (for that was his name), “go up, I beg you, upon the top of the tower, and look if my sisters are not coming over; they promised me that they would come today, and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste.”

His brother Andrew went up upon the top of the tower, and the poor afflicted husband cried out from time to time: “Andrew, brother Andrew, do you see anyone coming?”

And brother Andrew said: “I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which looks green.”

In the meanwhile Bluehair, holding a great sabre in her hand, cried out as loud as she could bawl to her husband: “Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you.”

“One moment longer, if you please,” said her husband, and then he cried out very softly, “Andrew, brother Andrew, dost thou see anybody coming?”

And brother Andrew answered: “I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which is green.”

“Come down quickly,” cried Bluehair, “or I will come up to you.”

“I am coming,” answered her husband; and then he cried, “Andrew, brother Andrew, dost thou not see anyone coming?”

“I see,” replied brother Andrew, “a great dust, which comes on this side here.”

“Are they my sisters?”

“Alas! no, my dear brother, I see a flock of sheep.”

“Will you not come down?” cried Bluehair.

Musketeers“One moment longer,” said her husband, and then he cried out: “Andrew, brother Andrew, dost thou see nobody coming?”

“I see,” said he, “two horsewomen, but they are yet a great way off.”

“God be praised,” replied the poor husband joyfully; “they are my sisters; I will make them a sign, as well as I can, for them to make haste.”

Then Bluehair bawled out so loud that she made the whole house tremble. The distressed husband came down, and threw himself at her feet, all in tears, with his hair about his shoulders.

“This signifies nothing,” says Bluehair; “you must die”; then, taking hold of his hair with one hand, and lifting up the sword with the other, she was going to take off his head. The poor gentleman, turning about to her, and looking at her with dying eyes, desired her to afford him one little moment to recollect himself.

“No, no,” said she, “recommend thyself to God,” and was just ready to strike . . .

At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Bluehair made a sudden stop. The gate was opened, and presently entered two horsewomen, who, drawing their swords, ran directly to Bluehair. She knew them to be her husband’s sisters, one a dragoon, the other a musketeer, so that she ran away immediately to save herself; but the two sisters pursued so close that they overtook her before she could get to the steps of the porch, when they ran their swords through her body and left her dead. The poor husband was almost as dead as his wife, and had not strength enough to rise and welcome his sisters.

Bluehair had no heirs, and so her husband became master of all her estate. He made use of one part of it to marry his brother Andrew to a young lady who had loved him a long while; another part to buy captains commissions for his sisters, and the rest to marry himself to a very worthy lady, who made her forget the ill time he had passed with Bluehair.

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

For the most part, this story actually flipped pretty well. The biggest issue was simply the power of the wife in this version, given the stated time period and place (given by the mention of dragoons and musketeers). It doesn’t really make sense that it would be the wife who was going off on business trips or the sisters who were musketeers and captains while the husband in the story stays home and throws parties. Nevertheless, the general plot still works pretty well. That there would be a single woman of fortune, widowed a few times over, looking for a husband is plausible. That she might have power and secrets from her lifetime of experience is also plausible, especially if she is widowed from killing the previous husbands. What trips this story up is that the husband is much younger and clearly the more pet-like in the relationship. Not only would he gain control of all her holdings by marrying her in the time and place at hand, but it is doubtful such a woman would marry a much younger man unless he had something to offer (which this husband does not appear to have).

As a story, however, it works every bit as well as the original, in my opinion. It is still quite creepy and the players at hand aren’t dramatically changed. It is perhaps stranger for many of us to read of a male lead who is so completely unable to save himself, but, given the set up showing how powerful and frightening this woman is, I think it is believable. I actually kind of like how this story turned out, even if the sisters being musketeers and getting captains’ commissions at the end doesn’t really make sense. I think that’s really the only thing that doesn’t! To really make it work, I would either leave out the mention of their occupations or not actually flip the genders of the rescuing siblings at the end.

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)


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!

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »