The King with Six Friends
This was one of my favorite fairytale books as a child. I still have my copy, although it's fraying and the spine is taped together. The illustrations have a dreamy, misty feel.
It follows a king who has lost his throne and crown, who goes out to wander the world. He encounters other travelers, who each have strange gifts. One can turn into an elephant, another into fire, and so on. They reach a kingdom where the king is offering his daughter's hand in marriage, but there are tests to complete. With the help of his extraordinary friends (the fire-man, for instance, devours an impossibly large feast), the lost king passes the tests and gains the princess's hand.
This is ATU Type 513A, a widespread tale. The Grimms published one called "The Six Servants." It's fun particularly for the image of what would, in modern terms, be a team of superheroes.
One fascinating early example is the Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, possibly dated to around the 11th or 12th century. This is also one of the first existing stories connected with King Arthur.
Culhwch's stepmother curses him so that the only woman he can marry is Olwen, beautiful daughter of a giant named Ysbaddaden. (This scene, with Olwen described as snowy and rosy-red, falls in with many stories where a prince seeks a bride as white as snow. Her ogre-like father needs his heavy eyebrows lifted up so he can see - another trope from those stories.)
However, as it continues, Culhwch goes to his relative King Arthur for help. Because, of course, Ysbaddaden requires that several impossible tasks be completed before his daughter can marry anyone. This version abounds with mystical powers, so that Arthur's warriors resemble superheroes more than anything else. Cei (known better today as Sir Kay) can generate heat. A Welsh god, Gwyn ap Nudd, is among their number. The court list is prodigious. I do find it interesting that Arthur initially sends six of his warriors to scout things out when he hears of Culhwch's quest. Cei (who as mentioned is super hot), Bedwyr (who sheds blood faster than any other fighter), Kynddelig (an extraordinary guide), Gwrhyr (who knows all tongues), Gwalchmai (or Gawain, who always achieves his goals), and Menw (who can cast illusions and shapeshift into a bird).
This is also the Greek myth of Jason and Medea. Jason captains the Argo, a ship crewed by gifted heroes and demigods. Medea is the villain's daughter who works magic and helps her lover flee.
The King with Six Friends has an addition that is my favorite conclusion to this kind of tale. One might wonder why his friends don't get the kingdom and the princess, since they did all the work. And this is brought up in the text! But one of the friends responds, "He did what only a good king can do . . . He led us."
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Researching folktales and fairies, with a focus on common tale types.