My favorite fairytale right now is The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and my favorite character is the (often nameless) Prince. In some of the older variants he is "the old soldier". The story is about a dozen dancing princesses who are driving their father into penury by constantly wearing out a dozen pairs of shoes every night, to the point where the King has no choice but to lock them up in their bedroom at day's end. Still they somehow are able to wear out their shoes every evening. He offers the hand of any of his princesses to the man who figures out how they are doing this.
The old soldier or prince character, through a mixture of luck and cunning, is able to figure out that every night the girls disappear through a trap door which takes them to a Fairy Ball. They dance the night away and return worn out (shoes, too!) every morning. I love this fairytale even though it seems a bit senseless and without a lesson, because it gives other storytellers free license to imagine a bigger theme and character development, as well as romance, with the fairytale as the framework.
|From Errol le Cain's 1978 adaptation of the tale (photo from Our Paper Moon)|
The winner gets to pick, but I highly recommend Entwined by Heather Dixon--it's my favorite! There is more than one "prince/soldier" character and I thought it was well-written, entertaining, and romantic.
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