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Annotations for Maid Maleen


The annotations for the Maid Maleen fairy tale are below. Sources have been cited in parenthetical references, but I have not linked them directly to their full citations which appear on the Maid Maleen Bibliography page. I have provided links back to the Annotated Maid Maleen to facilitate referencing between the notes and the tale.

Special thanks to Christine Ethier, an adjunct teacher of English writing at both Community College of Philadelphia and Camden County College, for providing the annotations to this tale.

I have included the Grimms' notes to the tale as translated by Margaret Hunt followed by SurLaLune's textual annotations.

The Grimms' Notes For the Tale

From Müllenhoff, No. 5, p. 391. This is an excellent tale, both as regards matter and completeness. The oft-told recognition of the true bride is beautifully described. In Swedish, see Cavallius, p. 320; in Danish, Molbech, p. 88.

SurLaLune's Annotations

1.  Maid Maleen: “Jungfrau Maleen”.  AT 870.  The tale first appeared in the 1850 edition of Household Tales (Zipes, Complete 737).  The source is Sagen, Marchen und Lieder der Herzogthumer Schleswig, Holstein und Lauenberg edited by Karl Mullenhoff and published in 1845.            

Steven Swann Jones counts AT 870 tales as part of the Innocent Persecuted Heroine Genre.  According to Jones, Innocent Persecuted Heroine tales generally represent at least two acts out of a three act cycle (16).  The three acts are:

Act  I    “heroine’s initial family situation and her life at home, where she is frequently the victim of various jealous, ambitious, overprotective, or  generally hostile family members” (S. Jones 16).

Act II    The heroine meets and acquires a mate.  This act
shows the obstacles to the marriage and ends with the marriage

Act III   Shows the difficulty at the husband’s home, usually after the birth of children. (S. Jones 16).

Jones also puts the following tale types in the Innocent Persecuted Heroine genre:
                        AT 310           Maiden in a Tower (Rapunzel)
                        AT 403           Black and White Bride
                        AT 410           Sleeping Beauty
                        AT 437           The Supplanted Bride
                        AT 450           Little Brother and Little Sister
                        AT 480           The Kind and Unkind Girls
                        AT 500           Rumpelstilken
                        AT 510A/510B/511                                                                                                     Cinderella/Cap O’Rushes/One-Eye,                                                   Two Eyes, Three Eyes
                        AT553            Speaking Horsehead
                        AT 705           Born From a Fish
                        AT 706           Maiden without Hands
                        AT 707           The Three Golden Sons
                        AT 709           Snow White
                        AT 710           Our Lady’s Child
                        AT 712           Crescentia
                        AT 870           Princess immured in a mound                                                   [Maid Maleen]
                        AT 870A        Goose Girl
                        AT 883A        Innocent Slandered Maid
                        AT 923           Love Like Salt (17-20).

In his essay, Jones gives a brief summery showing how each tale type meets the structure of the Innocent persecuted heroine genre.

            Many of the tales in the genre share plot devices and details.
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2.  Maleen: The name might be a variation of Magdalene, as in Mary Magdalene.  Magdalene comes from “of Magdala” and magdala, the name of the town, meant tower” (Magdalene).
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3.  The prince was rejected: The story does not say precisely why the prince was rejected.  The only real hint is that Maleen’s father is “a mighty king,” so it is possible that the prince’s father does not rule a big kingdom.  This could be seen as a sin of pride on the part of Maleen’s father.  Considering the parallels between “Maid Maleen” to the lives of some female saints (see below) as well as to other persecuted heroine tales, the reason could have been a dropped incest theme or the other suitors are not acceptable in other ways (non-Christian for instance, see below).

The king can be seen as  “extending the patricidal principle” (Bidermann 195).
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4.  I can and will take no other for my husband: Maleen’s refusal to obey her father is not portrayed in an entirely negative or unfavorable light.            

When discussing tales where the girl refuses (with good reason) to marry her father’s choice, Marina Warner writes:                     

. . . the narrative is often presents in such a way that the independent  integrity of the victim as the inheritor of the family wealth becomes the issue, not her chastity.  The stories focus on the daughter revolting against her father and develop a plot to justify her action, the rebel is presented as a various heroine rather than an unfiial child.  In order to achieve this, the father’s act must be seen as an outrage precisely because daughters were decreed to obey their father by the fourth commandant.  To be vindicated, the disobedient daughter must be wronged.  The father’s transgression against the universally held taboo against incest furnishes a sufficiently shocking pretext, as does, in medieval context, his attempt to force a pagan husband on a Christian girl (344).  

Steven Swann Jones writes that such tales not only give instruction about how women should behave but also “provide dramatic representations of a young girl’s point of view, depictions of what may be regarded as her attitudes about those whom she grows up with or encounters and towards the takes, difficulties, and goals that she faces and must overcome” (24).
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5.  Dark tower: A dark tower is “ . . . a classic bad place in chivalry” (Langford 251).

According to Hans Biedermann, in heraldry towers are associated with people of merit (350).  A citadel tower can protect people from Satan (Biedermann 349). The tower is “emblematic of the Virgin Mary” (Cirlot 345).  [see below]
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6.  Sunlight or moonlight: Zipes gives the following translation, “ . . .prevented the rays of light from the sun and moon from penetrating its walls” (Complete 622).

The sun is connected to “immorality and resurrection” (Biedermann 330), and the moon is linked to the Virgin Mary (Biedermann 224).
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7.  Seven years: Seven is a sacred and mystical number (Evans 984).  It also is a “symbol of each day of our life” (Bettlehiem 84).  Seven is  also “the number expressing the sum of heaven and earth” (Cirlot 283).
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8. If thy perverse spirit is broken: Zipes translates, “You’re to sit in this tower for seven years.  After which time I shall come and see whether your spiteful spirit has been broken” (Complete 623).
In her essay  “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair,” Terri Windling notes “. . . disobedient daughters could be shut away in convents or locked up in madhouses”.
Jack Zipes writes of the tower motif, “The incarceration of a young woman in a tower (often to protect her chastity during puberty) was a common motif in various European myths and became part of the standard repertoire of medieval tales, lais, and romances throughout Europe, Africa, and the Orient” (Great Fairy, 474).
Here, the tower is used as punishment as well as a means of control.  In relating the legend of St. Christina, who was walled up in a tower by her father, Marina Warner uses the phrase, “to hide her, to encipher her” (342).
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9.  Walled up: The imprisonment of women for refusing to marry is a feature in saint lives.  Saint Barbara was imprisoned in a tower by her father to keep her away from her suitors (A. Jones 39).  She was beheaded by her father after she became a Christian, and her father was killed by a lighting strike shortly afterwards (A. Jones 39).  Saint Catherine was imprisoned by her father after refusing a royal marriage.
Of more interest is Saint Adelaide (931-999), who was the wife of Otto the Great.  Adelaide’s first husband was Lothair of Italy.  When Lothair died (according to some sources he was poisoned), Berenger (or Berengarias, the accused murderer) had himself elected the King of the Lombards, captured Adelaide, and tried to make her marry his son (Davis 217).  When she refused, Berenger had her estates seized (St. Adelaide) and imprisoned her in Castle Garda (Campbell).  The castle was on the shore of Lake Garda and rose 294 meters (964.57 feet) above the lake (Garda Curiosity).  It no longer stands.
Adelaide’s imprisonment lasted for four months (St. Adelaide).  According to Campbell, a priest named Martin rescued her by digging a tunnel into her cell.  After her rescue, she lived in the forest until she made her way to Castle Canossa (Oliveira).  Professor Correa de Oliveira states that it was from Canossa that she sent a letter to Otto I, King of the Germans (later, Otto the Great) asking for help and making an offer of marriage, which Otto accepted.  Oliveira writes, “She arranged a marriage for herself and a very good one”.
Saint Adelaide was far more popular in Germany than in Italy and appeared on many Germany Calendars (Campbell).    She is the patron saint of “abuse victims, brides . . .  people in exile, princesses, prisoners . . .” (Adelaide).  All of which are roles that Maid Maleen fulfills in the story.
Maleen does not struggle or fight against her imprisonment.  She accepts her punishment for disobeying her father.  Ruth Bottigheimer states that the silence in the tales comes from folk sources (197-198).  She writes, “It is the dictates of hard peasant and artisan life that produce domestic tyranny, female silence and isolation in the Grimms’ tales” (198). Return to place in story.

10.  Cut off from sky: Towers are associated with the idea of the Axis Mundi, the “symbol of orderlininess of creationl, of humanity, securely positioned in a well-organized universe” (Biedermann 225). Towers link heaven and earth (Biedermann 225), but Maid Maleen is cut off from both heaven and earth.
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11.  The king’s son: The prince does not save her, but he does not fully abandon her.
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12. Were coming to an end: The seven years of imprisonment are similar to the sleeping states of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. There is a connection to rebirth and resurrection (Ashley 873).
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13.  We must try: According to Steven Jones, the second act of the Innocent Persecuted Maiden genre starts here (20). “Maid Maleen” only has the first two acts (S. Jones 20). Maleen’s desire to escape also shows that she is active, not passive. It is also important to note, that she seeks to escape only after the seven years have expired. She endures the punishment for disobeying her father.
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14.  Her father’s castle lay in ruins: Jack Zipes translates, “All the inhabitants had been slaughtered” (Complete 623).

Maleen’s punishment has saved her. Her father has lost his kingdom (and most likely his life, for he does not reappear later in the story), but her prince has not. Zipes points out, “If tyrants or parents are challenged, they relent or are replaced, but the property relationships and patriarchy are not transformed” (Zipes, Subversive, 72).
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15.  They wandered forth: The journey that Maleen and her waiting-woman undergo is a night journey. A night Journey is a “central movement in the Rite of Passage undertaken by fantasy protagonists” (Clute, NJ, 685). The end of a Night Journey is usually a recognition scene (Clute, NJ, 686). Night Journeys change protagonist (Clute, NJ, 686).

Rites of Passage are made up of three parts, “separation from a previous world, transition, and incorporation into a new situation” (Jeay 343).
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16.  Nowhere did they find shelter: Valerie Paradiz notes that “unlike male protagonists, a female character of a fairy tale sets out into the world not to seek her fortune but rather to accept isolation and poverty and to forego all hope of stability, which can be brokered only by marriage” (139).

Maid Maleen is not entirely alone, though, her waiting woman does accompany her.

In Spinning Straw Into Gold, Joan Gould points out, “Desert, forest, moors, or snows cape, the interior landscape is the same –a place of hardship and isolation where transformation to adult independent can take place those who are ready for it” (222). After her escape from the tower, Maleen must learn to survive without the trappings and rights of a princess.
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17.  With nettles: Jack Zipes gives “stinging nettles” (Complete 623).

The sting of a nettle is due to formic acid (Livingston 227). While nettles can cause a rash, the sting is not too harsh and lasts only for a short time (Livingston 227). A person can boil nettles for a short time to remove the sting (Livingston 227). Nettles are high in vitamins A and C, iron, and protein (Livingston 227).
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18.  A large city: A city can symbolize “ . . . the regularized center of a person’s life, which can often be reached after long travels, when a high degree of emotional maturity has been reached . . .” (Biedermann 272).
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19.  Stay in the kitchen and be scullions: Jack Zipes uses the term “Cinderella’s” (Complete 623). This is the last we hear of the waiting woman.

Maria Tatar notes that “fairy tale heroines often undertake a journey that succeeds only in landing them at the site of new forms of domestic drudgery” (116).
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20.  His father had chosen another bride for him: It is important to note two things. One, the prince did not chose the bride; his father did. Second, the prince does not have the same reason to rebel as Maleen, he hasn’t seen her for seven years and he believes her to be dead.

Zipes describes the second bride “She had a face as ugly as sin, and her heart was just as wicked” (Complete 623-624).

The second bride is never referred to as a princess.
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21.  I have sprained my foot: There is no sympathy for the second bride because she lies. “Laziness coupled with deceit was a combination that ran counter to the values inscribed on so many tales gathered in the collection” (Tatar 119).

It is possible that the second bride is a Black Bride figure. Joan Gould believes that the “intruding Black Bride is aggressive, dynamic, mercenary (often for necessary reason) on fire with jealousy, self centered, and self reliant” (194). Steven Swann points out that “the person who replaces the heroine seems to be something of a second self with whom the heroine is in conflict” (30). The second bride could be representative of pride and hubris that Maleen might have inherited from her father and which might have appeared later in the marriage. While Maleen is still the daughter of a king, she is no longer the daughter of a mighty king. Her prince is now richer than she.
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22.  I wish for no honor for which is not suitable: Zipes translates, “I don’t want an honor like this if I haven’t earned it” (Complete 624). It is only a physical threat that makes Maleen obey the second bride.

The second bride is proposing something more than a simple deception. Maleen is not the bride’s proxy. Maleen is a secret substitute. Therefore, the marriage between the prince and the second bride would not be real marriage, and the children would not be illegitimate, throwing the royal bloodline into question and endangering the kingdom.
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23.  Put on the bride’s magnificent clothes: A changed clothes in fairy tales is often a change in state (Gould 420).
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24.  She is like my Maid Maleen: The prince is not entirely clueless (like say the Prince in some versions of Cinderella). However, he discounts it because he believes Maleen to be dead.
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25.  Nettle-plant: Jack Zipes translates the rhyme as:

Nettle brush
Nettle brush, so small and bare
Why are you now standing here?
There was a time, you know
When I ate you raw, you know
Raw and rough
(Complete 624).

Notice that Maleen did not have water or fire to boil the nettles in to remove their sting.
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26.  Foot-bridge: Zipes translates, “Footbridge, please don’t break or chide,/for I’ll gladly admit I’m not his true bride” (Complete 625).

While it might seem possible for Maleen to consider herself the true bride, she isn’t. Her father did not give permission for her to marry the prince, and she is not the prince’s designated bride at this point in time.

A bridge is “a symbol of transition or passage . . . “ (Biedermann 49). Bridges can “ . . . symbolize transition to a new way of existence that can be achieved manfully only though rites of passage” (Biedermann 49).
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27.  Church door: The door is the third thing that Maleen address on her way to the church.  Three can symbolize the id, ego, and superego (Bettleheim 102).  Three also symbolizes, “the creation of spirit out of matter, of the active out of the passive” (Cirlot 336). 

The door is a feminine symbol (Cirlot 85).
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28.  Then he took out a precious chain: Zipes translates “precious jewel necklace” (Complete 625) as well as “gold necklace” (Complete 627).

This occurs after the third exchange between the prince and Maid Maleen.  The prince does appear to know that something is not quite right.  Symbolically  a prince, “ . . . is a rejuvenated form of the paternal king . .  his great virtue is intuition” (Cirlot 264). 

The chain is given before the couple set foot inside the church.  The chain itself can mean ownership or servitude (Biedermann 63).  However, a golden chain can represent the great Chain of Being (Biedermann 63).  Prayer can represent by a golden chain (Biedermann 63).

In the Middle Ages, the husband presented the dower to his wife at the church door (Gies 31).  Vows and the ring were exchanged at the door and then the couple went into to hear mass (Gies 32-33) In addition, there was a nuptial cord that was used in marriage (Jeay, Marriage, 258), and this chain could be seen as a symbol of that.

The prince’s questioning of Maid Maleen is a form of Recognition which “. . .  marks a fundamental shift in the process of a story from increasing ignorance to knowledge” (Clute, Recog, 804).
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29.  She did not speak a single word: The reasons why Maid Maleen does not speak are somewhat unclear. She might be humble; she is a princess but she can bring nothing to the marriage.

Steven Jones contends:

Another concern raised by this popular motif of the heroine’s not being recognized by her husband or husband-to-be is the issue of not having ones true worth appreciated. Inasmuch as the future and current husband seems not able to recognize the true heroine, he is not seeing her true self, her true value (30).

D. L. Ashliman notes of incest tales:

the heroine’s need to escape from her own past is further indicted by her steadfast refusal to reveal her identify to the king [the prince here] who discovers her . . . Psychotic behavior of this sort is perfect ably believable for someone who has just been sexually threatened by the man who should have been her closest and most powerful protector, her own father.

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30.  Must go out unto my maid: Zipes translates, “My maid, my maid, I must go and see/For its she who keeps my thoughts for me” (Complete 625).

This is the first of four tests that the second bride must do. The sequence could be based on bridals games where the groom had to identify his bride (Gould 203). According to Joan Gould, “Ethnologists account for these games by saying that in past ages a marriageable woman could be valuable property, and so her community might try to palm off a less desirable female, a child or crone perhaps, in exchange for the agreed upon bride-price” (203-204). This “palming off” might be what the second bride is trying to do. Such bridal games lasted until the 19th century, and the veil is a hold over from them (Gould 204).
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31.  I said nothing but: Maid Maleen is still being humble. The Grimms “. . . placed great emphasis on passivity, industry, and self-sacrifice for girls” (Zipes, Subversion, 60).
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32.  Terrible passion: Each time she must go back to Maleen, the bride gets angrier and the threats are harsher. Maleen, on the other hand, does not lose her patience.
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33.  She screamed so loudly for help: Maleen breaks her silence and asks for help when she is being attacked by someone who is acting outside the law.  Steven Jones notes “The fact that the king enforces the moral code suggests that part of the social imitation of women in these stories is to encourage them to rely on and be reassured about the ability of society to punish transgressions” (33).
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34.  I am thy lawful wife: When discovering the prince or king’s discovery of his proper bride, Joan Gould notes, “Not until he picks her out among all the women of his kingdom will she have anything to do with him, because only then can she be sure that he acuteness of his vision of her is equal to the force of his desire” (200).

Maleen points out her sufferings for him; it is as if she was saying: I have nothing to bring to the marriage but my love and steadfastness, which are things that the second bride did not have.

Karen Rowe points out, “Because the heroine adopts conventional female virtues, that are patience, sacrifice, and dependency, and because she submits to patriarchal needs, she confusingly receives both the promise and guarantee of social and financial status though marriage” (217).  In addition, she “. . . re-enters a comfortable world of masculine protection shared earlier with her father” (Rowe 217).
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35. Kling, Clang, Gloria: Jack Zipes translates the rhyme:

Cling, Clang, clump
Who’s sitting there alone and glum
The princess sits without a key,
The princess I can’t see.
The walls are thick and will not break.
The stones won’t move for heaven’s sake.
Come, little Hans, with your coat so gay,
Come follow me this very day.
(Complete, 627).

The rhyme is a hold over from oral folklore. There are other versions of the ending rhyme. For instance:

Sound, Sounded, to Gloria
Who sits in the tower there
A beautiful kongistocher [king’s daughter]
Which one to see does not kriegt

(Why not,
Why not)

(It sits in firm walls)

Walls woll’n we sting
Stones woll’n we break
Trudihen with the red skirt
Fass’ me in the back at the skirt
(Sound, Sounded)

There was a book entitled Kling, Klang, Gloria Deutsche Volks und Kinderlieder [German Folk and Children’s Songs]. The authors were Heinrich Lefler and Josef Urban, and it was published in 1907.
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Special thanks to Christine Ethier, an adjunct teacher of English writing at both Community College of Philadelphia and Camden County College, for providing the annotations to this tale.


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Page created 7/1/2007; Last updated 9/18/07