Serendipity means unexpected good fortune and often searches for stories prove serendipitous, finding a story different from the original plan. Today's story started for me with my first sight of a few wild violets on a woodland hike that seemed like spring was still not ready to appear. Then I looked for illustrations and found violets often on Easter greetings and on eggs like this one on Etsy. It was one of three different hand-painted eggs with violets at VintageFindsbySherry
, but certainly not the only source for such an item as there were others if you search "Easter +violets".
Eggs are indeed symbolic of Easter with the idea of both new life and the life that breaks out of it paralleling the empty tomb. Violets are one of the first flowers of spring, so I can see how they came to be together.
My own real serendipity came when I went looking for a book called Flower Legends. Gutenberg.org didn't have it, but I prowled each of the books it produced for stories about violets. Among the books was The Violet Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang. He dedicated the book to Violet Myers without saying more about her. The book was one of many in his Rainbow of Fairy Books grouped under a color name. In the Wikipedia article about Andrew Lang after talking about the first in the series, The Blue Fairy Book, the following appears:
This was followed by many other collections of fairy tales, collectively known as Andrew Lang's Fairy Books despite most of the work for them being done by his wife Leonora Blanche Alleyne and a team of mostly female assistants.
In the preface of the Lilac Fairy Book he credits his wife with
translating and transcribing most of the stories in the collections.
Those footnotes are worth pursuing, but in the Preface of The Violet Fairy Book
he names the translators of six of the stories and then says "Mrs. Lang did the rest." He only lists himself as Editor and says the book is "By Various", possibly crediting both the original authors and the translators. I strongly recommend the Wikipedia article about her
. "Nora" Lang's abilities, including her multi-lingual skills, remind me of the saying in the music world, "Anonymous was a woman." Actually once before I wrote about her here
, but I also see I have nine articles with a label for Andrew. The Langs initially only planned to produce the one fairy book, but its popularity shifted opinion at a time when fairy tales had been judged "unsuitable for children and unworthy of critical analysis."
Today's story was among the tales in The Violet Fairy Book Nora translated and transcribed. The title and dedication are the book's only mention of violets and, while it's not about Easter, I want to share it because it's about an unusual egg, definitely strikes me as having a woman's touch, and is a classic, but too little known fairy tale.
THE CHILD WHO CAME FROM AN EGG
Once upon a time there lived a queen whose heart was sore because she had
no children. She was sad enough when her husband was at home with her, but
when he was away she would see nobody, but sat and wept all day long.
Now it happened that a war broke out with the king of a neighbouring
country, and the queen was left in the palace alone.
She was so unhappy that she felt as if the walls would stifle her, so she
wandered out into the garden, and threw herself down on a grassy bank,
under the shade of a lime tree. She had been there for some time, when a
rustle among the leaves caused her to look up, and she saw an old woman
limping on her crutches towards the stream that flowed through the
When she had quenched her thirst, she came straight up to the queen, and
said to her: ‘Do not take it evil, noble lady, that I dare to speak to
you, and do not be afraid of me, for it may be that I shall bring you good
The queen looked at her doubtfully, and answered: ‘You do not seem as if
you had been very lucky yourself, or to have much good fortune to spare
for anyone else.’
‘Under rough bark lies smooth wood and sweet kernel,’ replied the old
woman. ‘Let me see your hand, that I may read the future.’
The queen held out her hand, and the old woman examined its lines closely.
Then she said, ‘Your heart is heavy with two sorrows, one old and one new.
The new sorrow is for your husband, who is fighting far away from you;
but, believe me, he is well, and will soon bring you joyful news. But your
other sorrow is much older than this. Your happiness is spoilt because you
have no children.’ At these words the queen became scarlet, and tried to
draw away her hand, but the old woman said:
‘Have a little patience, for there are some things I want to see more
‘But who are you?’ asked the queen, ‘for you seem to be able to read my
‘Never mind my name,’ answered she, ‘but rejoice that it is permitted to
me to show you a way to lessen your grief. You must, however, promise to
do exactly what I tell you, if any good is to come of it.’
‘Oh, I will obey you exactly,’ cried the queen, ‘and if you can help me
you shall have in return anything you ask for.’
The old woman stood thinking for a little: then she drew something from
the folds of her dress, and, undoing a number of wrappings, brought out a
tiny basket made of birch-bark. She held it out to the queen, saying, ‘In
the basket you will find a bird’s egg. This you must be careful to keep in
a warm place for three months, when it will turn into a doll. Lay the doll
in a basket lined with soft wool, and leave it alone, for it will not need
any food, and by-and-by you will find it has grown to be the size of a
baby. Then you will have a baby of your own, and you must put it by the
side of the other child, and bring your husband to see his son and
daughter. The boy you will bring up yourself, but you must entrust the
little girl to a nurse. When the time comes to have them christened you
will invite me to be godmother to the princess, and this is how you must
send the invitation. Hidden in the cradle, you will find a goose’s wing:
throw this out of the window, and I will be with you directly; but be sure
you tell no one of all the things that have befallen you.’
The queen was about to reply, but the old woman was already limping away,
and before she had gone two steps she had turned into a young girl, who
moved so quickly that she seemed rather to fly than to walk. The queen,
watching this transformation, could hardly believe her eyes, and would
have taken it all for a dream, had it not been for the basket which she
held in her hand. Feeling a different being from the poor sad woman who
had wandered into the garden so short a time before, she hastened to her
room, and felt carefully in the basket for the egg. There it was, a tiny
thing of soft blue with little green spots, and she took it out and kept
it in her bosom, which was the warmest place she could think of.
A fortnight after the old woman had paid her visit, the king came home,
having conquered his enemies. At this proof that the old woman had spoken
truth, the queen’s heart bounded, for she now had fresh hopes that the
rest of the prophecy might be fulfilled.
She cherished the basket and the egg as her chiefest treasures, and had a
golden case made for the basket, so that when the time came to lay the egg
in it, it might not risk any harm.
Three months passed, and, as the old woman had bidden her, the queen took
the egg from her bosom, and laid it snugly amidst the warm woollen folds.
The next morning she went to look at it, and the first thing she saw was
the broken eggshell, and a little doll lying among the pieces. Then she
felt happy at last, and leaving the doll in peace to grow, waited, as she
had been told, for a baby of her own to lay beside it.
In course of time, this came also, and the queen took the little girl out
of the basket, and placed it with her son in a golden cradle which
glittered with precious stones. Next she sent for the king, who nearly
went mad with joy at the sight of the children.
Soon there came a day when the whole court was ordered to be present at
the christening of the royal babies, and when all was ready the queen
softly opened the window a little, and let the goose wing fly out. The
guests were coming thick and fast, when suddenly there drove up a splendid
coach drawn by six cream-coloured horses, and out of it stepped a young
lady dressed in garments that shone like the sun. Her face could not be
seen, for a veil covered her head, but as she came up to the place where
the queen was standing with the babies she drew the veil aside, and
everyone was dazzled with her beauty. She took the little girl in her
arms, and holding it up before the assembled company announced that
henceforward it would be known by the name of Dotterine—a name which
no one understood but the queen, who knew that the baby had come from the
yolk of an egg. The boy was called Willem.
After the feast was over and the guests were going away, the godmother
laid the baby in the cradle, and said to the queen, ‘Whenever the baby
goes to sleep, be sure you lay the basket beside her, and leave the
eggshells in it. As long as you do that, no evil can come to her; so guard
this treasure as the apple of your eye, and teach your daughter to do so
likewise.’ Then, kissing the baby three times, she mounted her coach and
The children throve well, and Dotterine’s nurse loved her as if she were
the baby’s real mother. Every day the little girl seemed to grow prettier,
and people used to say she would soon be as beautiful as her godmother,
but no one knew, except the nurse, that at night, when the child slept, a
strange and lovely lady bent over her. At length she told the queen what
she had seen, but they determined to keep it as a secret between
The twins were by this time nearly two years old, when the queen was taken
suddenly ill. All the best doctors in the country were sent for, but it
was no use, for there is no cure for death. The queen knew she was dying,
and sent for Dotterine and her nurse, who had now become her
lady-in-waiting. To her, as her most faithful servant, she gave the lucky
basket in charge, and besought her to treasure it carefully. ‘When my
daughter,’ said the queen, ‘is ten years old, you are to hand it over to
her, but warn her solemnly that her whole future happiness depends on the
way she guards it. About my son, I have no fears. He is the heir of the
kingdom, and his father will look after him.’ The lady-in-waiting promised
to carry out the queen’s directions, and above all to keep the affair a
secret. And that same morning the queen died.
After some years the king married again, but he did not love his second
wife as he had done his first, and had only married her for reasons of
ambition. She hated her step-children, and the king, seeing this, kept
them out of the way, under the care of Dotterine’s old nurse. But if they
ever strayed across the path of the queen, she would kick them out of her
sight like dogs.
On Dotterine’s tenth birthday her nurse handed her over the cradle, and
repeated to her her mother’s dying words; but the child was too young to
understand the value of such a gift, and at first thought little about it.
Two more years slipped by, when one day during the king’s absence the
stepmother found Dotterine sitting under a lime tree. She fell as usual
into a passion, and beat the child so badly that Dotterine went staggering
to her own room. Her nurse was not there, but suddenly, as she stood
weeping, her eyes fell upon the golden case in which lay the precious
basket. She thought it might contain something to amuse her, and looked
eagerly inside, but nothing was there save a handful of wool and two empty
eggshells. Very much disappointed, she lifted the wool, and there lay the
goose’s wing. ‘What old rubbish,’ said the child to herself, and, turning,
threw the wing out of the open window.
In a moment a beautiful lady stood beside her. ‘Do not be afraid,’ said
the lady, stroking Dotterine’s head. ‘I am your godmother, and have come
to pay you a visit. Your red eyes tell me that you are unhappy. I know
that your stepmother is very unkind to you, but be brave and patient, and
better days will come. She will have no power over you when you are grown
up, and no one else can hurt you either, if only you are careful never to
part from your basket, or to lose the eggshells that are in it. Make a
silken case for the little basket, and hide it away in your dress night
and day and you will be safe from your stepmother and anyone that tries to
harm you. But if you should happen to find yourself in any difficulty, and
cannot tell what to do, take the goose’s wing from the basket, and throw
it out of the window, and in a moment I will come to help you. Now come
into the garden, that I may talk to you under the lime trees, where no one
can hear us.’
They had so much to say to each other, that the sun was already setting
when the godmother had ended all the good advice she wished to give the
child, and saw it was time for her to be going. ‘Hand me the basket,’ said
she, ‘for you must have some supper. I cannot let you go hungry to bed.’
Then, bending over the basket, she whispered some magic words, and
instantly a table covered with fruits and cakes stood on the ground before
them. When they had finished eating, the godmother led the child back, and
on the way taught her the words she must say to the basket when she wanted
it to give her something.
In a few years more, Dotterine was a grown-up young lady, and those who
saw her thought that the world did not contain so lovely a girl.
About this time a terrible war broke out, and the king and his army were
beaten back and back, till at length they had to retire into the town, and
make ready for a siege. It lasted so long that food began to fail, and
even in the palace there was not enough to eat.
So one morning Dotterine, who had had neither supper nor breakfast, and
was feeling very hungry, let her wing fly away. She was so weak and
miserable, that directly her godmother appeared she burst into tears, and
could not speak for some time.
‘Do not cry so, dear child,’ said the godmother. ‘I will carry you away
from all this, but the others I must leave to take their chance.’ Then,
bidding Dotterine follow her, she passed through the gates of the town,
and through the army outside, and nobody stopped them, or seemed to see
The next day the town surrendered, and the king and all his courtiers were
taken prisoners, but in the confusion his son managed to make his escape.
The queen had already met her death from a spear carelessly thrown.
As soon as Dotterine and her godmother were clear of the enemy, Dotterine
took off her own clothes, and put on those of a peasant, and in order to
disguise her better her godmother changed her face completely. ‘When
better times come,’ her protectress said cheerfully, ‘and you want to look
like yourself again, you have only to whisper the words I have taught you
into the basket, and say you would like to have your own face once more,
and it will be all right in a moment. But you will have to endure a little
longer yet.’ Then, warning her once more to take care of the basket, the
lady bade the girl farewell.
For many days Dotterine wandered from one place to another without finding
shelter, and though the food which she got from the basket prevented her
from starving, she was glad enough to take service in a peasant’s house
till brighter days dawned. At first the work she had to do seemed very
difficult, but either she was wonderfully quick in learning, or else the
basket may have secretly helped her. Anyhow at the end of three days she
could do everything as well as if she had cleaned pots and swept rooms all
One morning Dotterine was busy scouring a wooden tub, when a noble lady
happened to pass through the village. The girl’s bright face as she stood
in the front of the door with her tub attracted the lady, and she stopped
and called the girl to come and speak to her.
‘Would you not like to come and enter my service?’ she asked.
‘Very much,’ replied Dotterine, ‘if my present mistress will allow me.’
‘Oh, I will settle that,’ answered the lady; and so she did, and the same
day they set out for the lady’s house, Dotterine sitting beside the
Six months went by, and then came the joyful news that the king’s son had
collected an army and had defeated the usurper who had taken his father’s
place, but at the same moment Dotterine learned that the old king had died
in captivity. The girl wept bitterly for his loss, but in secrecy, as she
had told her mistress nothing about her past life.
At the end of a year of mourning, the young king let it be known that he
intended to marry, and commanded all the maidens in the kingdom to come to
a feast, so that he might choose a wife from among them. For weeks all the
mothers and all the daughters in the land were busy preparing beautiful
dresses and trying new ways of putting up their hair, and the three lovely
daughters of Dotterine’s mistress were as much excited as the rest. The
girl was clever with her fingers, and was occupied all day with getting
ready their smart clothes, but at night when she went to bed she always
dreamed that her godmother bent over her and said, ‘Dress your young
ladies for the feast, and when they have started follow them yourself.
Nobody will be so fine as you.’
When the great day came, Dotterine could hardly contain herself, and when
she had dressed her young mistresses and seen them depart with their
mother she flung herself on her bed, and burst into tears. Then she seemed
to hear a voice whisper to her, ‘Look in your basket, and you will find in
it everything that you need.’
Dotterine did not want to be told twice! Up she jumped, seized her basket,
and repeated the magic words, and behold! there lay a dress on the bed,
shining as a star. She put it on with fingers that trembled with joy, and,
looking in the glass, was struck dumb at her own beauty. She went
downstairs, and in front of the door stood a fine carriage, into which she
stepped and was driven away like the wind.
The king’s palace was a long way off, yet it seemed only a few minutes
before Dotterine drew up at the great gates. She was just going to alight,
when she suddenly remembered she had left her basket behind her. What was
she to do? Go back and fetch it, lest some ill-fortune should befall her,
or enter the palace and trust to chance that nothing evil would happen?
But before she could decide, a little swallow flew up with the basket in
its beak, and the girl was happy again.
The feast was already at its height, and the hall was brilliant with youth
and beauty, when the door was flung wide and Dotterine entered, making all
the other maidens look pale and dim beside her. Their hopes faded as they
gazed, but their mothers whispered together, saying, ‘Surely this is our
The young king did not know her again, but he never left her side nor took
his eyes from her. And at midnight a strange thing happened. A thick cloud
suddenly filled the hall, so that for a moment all was dark. Then the mist
suddenly grew bright, and Dotterine’s godmother was seen standing there.
‘This,’ she said, turning to the king, ‘is the girl whom you have always
believed to be your sister, and who vanished during the siege. She is not
your sister at all, but the daughter of the king of a neighbouring
country, who was given to your mother to bring up, to save her from the
hands of a wizard.’
Then she vanished, and was never seen again, nor the wonder-working basket
either; but now that Dotterine’s troubles were over she could get on
without them, and she and the young king lived happily together till the
end of their days.
That picture's caption is a link to a brief explanation and background on the Ukrainian tradition of Pysanky, talking about it as a tourist item in Ukraine's safer times. There are brief introductions to making Pysanky online as "beginner simple pysanky designs" or "step by step beginner easy pysanky designs", but I'd recommend going to your library's online catalog and putting in the keyword "pysanky" for both books about creating them and picture books about them.
May the peace and new life of Easter come to you in a serendipitous way.
is part of a series of postings of stories under the category,
"Keeping the Public in Public Domain." The idea
behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the
authors and their immediate heirs were compensated. I feel
strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the
20th century. My
own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public
Domain I decided to share stories from them. I hope you enjoy
discovering new stories.
the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates
projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an
audience. Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing
of Public Domain stories will not occur that week. This is a return to
my regular posting of a research project here. (Don't worry, this
isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future
storytelling to an audience.) Response has convinced me that "Keeping
the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other
postings as often as I can manage it.
Public Domain story resources I recommend-
are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for
folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's
the International Folktales Collection. I have long
recommended it and continue to do so. He has loaded
Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so
you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression
you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
email list for storytellers, Storytell,
discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional
- You may have noticed I'm no
longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his
offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking
specific types of stories. There's another site, FairyTalez
claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales,
folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for
phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there
is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait,
Story-Lovers - http://www.story-lovers.com/ is now only accessible
through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's
wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google
search doesn't work), at https://archive.org/ . It's not easy, but go to Story-lovers.com snapshot for October 22 2016 and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT
go to the Internet Archive
Wayback Machine to find some of these old links. Tim's
site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a
full-time job. In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that
Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she
could no longer maintain it. Possibly searches maintained it.
Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim
Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old
Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library
(something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine. It
took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally
in December of 2006 it appears!
as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website
is the late Chuck Larkin - http://chucklarkin.com/stories.html.
I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can
be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a. Archive.org, when that
becomes the only way to find them.
can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun
discovering even more stories!